When it comes to gambling reforms and expansion, virtually everything is on the table in Pennsylvania.
If you can gamble on it, or put a gambling device somewhere, the Pennsylvania legislature has discussed it in 2015. Slot machines at off-track betting parlors; slot machines at airports; changes to the video lottery terminal laws for bars and taverns; online gambling; skill-based gambling; and daily fantasy sports and even the legalization of sports betting are being considered.
Bringing DFS to brick-and-mortar casinos
Republican Representative George Dunbar has filed a bill that would allow Pennsylvania casinos to offer fantasy sports on property. Dunbar’s bill seeks to codify the state’s law to make fantasy sports held at brick-and-mortar casinos expressly legal.
“There’s nothing under our gaming law that allows them to collect money and distribute money on a fantasy sports tournament. Although it would not be illegal, it’s not codified under our gaming laws,” Dunbar told PennLive.com. “All the bill would do is say, “You can do this if you want to, to hold daily tournaments and attract people if you want to.” “
What Dunbar is proposing is not the legalization and regulation of the DFS industry as we know it (DraftKings and FanDuel), but merely a law that would allow casinos to offer fantasy sports contests as a way to draw people into the casinos and a new marketing tool to hopefully capture a younger demographic.
Sports betting… stop me if you’ve heard this plan before
Representative Nick Kotik, who co-sponsored an online gambling bill (HB 649) with Representative John Payne earlier this year, has decided to take on a much heavier lift, introducing a bill that would legalize sports betting in the Keystone State.
Even though Kotik is the Democratic chair of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, the bill is unlikely to gain much traction, and even if it does, it’s unlikely to survive the inevitable legal challenges that have derailed New Jersey’s efforts to legalize sports betting. These challenges will come from sports leagues and the NCAA, who have fought (and beat) New Jersey every step of the way.
However, if Pennsylvania simply makes this push, and California too, it may force the federal government to revisit the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) that forbids states from legalizing sports betting, which they already seem to be considering.
Online gambling still a possibility
Pennsylvania’s 2016 budget was due on July 1, and while delays aren’t unusual in the process, we’re now approaching a final past-due warning, as the state blew past the deadline nearly 90 days ago.
Reports vary when it comes to online gambling’s chance of being part of the final budget deal, as some see it as a key bargaining chip, while others have stated that the issue has barely been brought up.
All American Poker Network CEO David Licht is one person who thinks iGaming is still very much on the table, as he believes some of the brick-and-mortar casinos are using online gambling as leverage for some of the other gaming reforms that have been discussed, from adding slots at OTB locations to changes to Category 3 licenses. “At the end of the day, $100 million in revenue is a hard thing to ignore,” Licht said about iGaming expansion being part of the final budget.
The architect of HB 649, and the driving force behind Pennsylvania’s iGaming expansion efforts, Representative John Payne, also believes iGaming still has a good shot of passing in the budget. “I still feel very comfortable that some forms of gaming will be part of the final budget package,” Payne said in an interview with WGAL News 8.
What gaming reforms are actually on the table during the ongoing budget discussions is anyone’s guess, but there are no shortage of possibilities the legislature and the governor could consider.
Some seem feasible — like online gambling, Category 3 license holders, and perhaps adding daily fantasy sports at Pennsylvania’s casinos. Others — like slot machines at airports and sports betting — seem like a long shot.