While online casino games and internet poker may not be in the cards for 2015 in Pennsylvania, they could be part of an even larger battleground that includes online lottery and daily fantasy sports.
Committee hearings coming on new subjects
After a flurry of bills were introduced earlier this year that included portions on online gambling and online poker, more iGaming fronts will be considered in Pennsylvania before the end of the year.
First up is a hearing in front of the House Gaming Committee called “Exploring the Potential of Online Lottery/Gaming in Pennsylvania.” That hearing will take place on October 27.
Then, on November 19, the same committee will tackle a variety of subjects, including daily fantasy sports.
There are not yet bills that would accompany either hearing on these subjects.
Online lottery in PA?
Pennsylvania has not seriously considered an online lottery in the past. Back in 2012, Penn Live said the state would likely take a “wait-and-see approach”:
Todd Rucci, executive director of the Pennsylvania Lottery, said last week that while he is cognizant that Internet sales might be the next big thing in the lottery business, it might be good to watch and learn from the experience of others before jumping into the pool.
Online lotteries aren’t terribly common yet in the United States, but there have been solid early growth and revenue numbers from the likes of Michigan and Illinois.
It seems safe to say this hearing will be a predecessor to legislation, and Pennsylvania possibly dipping its toe into a possible online lottery.
Daily fantasy sports in PA?
The topic of daily fantasy sports (DFS) might be a little trickier. Currently, Pennsylvania is one of 45 states where most DFS operators accept players; the industry operates unregulated in jurisdictions throughout the U.S.
There have already been some rumblings in PA centering around DFS. Penn National has said it has designs on getting into the market. In the spring, a bill that would allow brick-and-mortar casinos to offer DFS was introduced, although it made no progress.
Again, the hearing appears to be informational/exploratory in nature. What form would a Pennsylvania DFS bill take? It seems unlikely a hearing would precede a bill that would simply legalize daily fantasy sports, in the vein of a bill that passed in Kansas and one that was recently introduced in Michigan.
If that’s the case, a bill that somehow seeks to regulate the DFS industry — possibly in the form of issuing licenses and taxing operators — seems more likely.
What’s the endgame?
Right now, online gambling isn’t entirely off the table in the Pennsylvania during its current budget impasse. But no one is betting on iGaming happening this year, either.
It seems far more likely that the legislature would package a suite of gambling measures together in an overarching bill, as it did on several occasions with online gambling and poker earlier this year.
Depending on the outcomes of these hearings, we may see a push for online lottery and DFS measures in 2016.