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Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee Passes HR 140 Ahead of iGaming Hearing

Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee Passes HR 140 Ahead of iGaming Hearing 0001

With tribes stalemated in California, online poker advocates have turned their attention to Pennsylvania, a state largely expected to be the next to pass Internet gaming (iGaming) legislation.

On Tuesday, by a vote of 18-8, the state's House Gaming Oversight Committee passed HR 140, a resolution that urges Congress, and the Pennsylvania delegation, to oppose the Restoration of America's Wire Act (RAWA). The move essentially draws attention to RAWA, which would hamper Pennsylvania's iGaming initiative, previously introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and backed by Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson.

"The passage of this resolution sends a strong and clear message to the U.S. Congress that Pennsylvania has the right to make their own legislative decisions about licensing and regulating online poker without the partisan influence of Washington politics," said Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas. "Sheldon Adelson's anti-states' rights bill would do nothing to protect Pennsylvanians online, and in fact would do the opposite by forcing Internet poker players into a black market with none of the consumer safeguards that players deserve."

The development comes two days before lawmakers will hold a hearing to consider Rep. John Payne's House Bill 649, which you can read by clicking here. That bill seeks to authorize "any interactive game approved by the board," meaning it could apply to more than just poker. If passed into law, the bill would require players to be 21 and within state borders to play online. In addition, there would be a 14-percent tax rate and a $5 million license fee for operators. The bill does not contain a bad actor clause.

"If enacted, HR 707 (RAWA) would prohibit the transmission by wire communication of any bet or wager or of information assisting in the placement of any bet or wager, including Internet gaming," Payne explained when he first introduced HR 140. "A federal prohibition against Internet gaming would directly and negatively impact Pennsylvania by foreclosing the future potential of Internet gaming to generate tax revenue, to create economic and employment opportunities, including high-tech software jobs, and to foster valuable business ventures for Pennsylvania casinos."

He added, "Also, if enacted, HR 707 would prohibit the Commonwealth from authorizing and conducting Internet gaming and from capturing new tax revenue for Pennsylvania. The prohibition would preclude the Commonwealth's ability to create a legitimate online poker industry within its borders, drive illegal operators out of business, and protect consumers."

Here's a look at HR 140:

WHEREAS, The Restoration of America’s Wire Act, introduced as H.R. 707 in the 114th Congress, would prohibit the transmission by wire communication of any bet or wager or of information assisting in the placement of any bet or wager, including Internet gaming; and

WHEREAS, A Federal prohibition against Internet gaming would directly and negatively impact Pennsylvania by foreclosing the future potential of Internet gaming to generate tax revenue, to create economic and employment opportunities, including high-tech software jobs, and to foster valuable business ventures for Pennsylvania casinos; and

WHEREAS, If enacted, H.R. 707 would prohibit the Commonwealth from authorizing and conducting Internet gaming and from capturing new tax revenue for Pennsylvania; and

WHEREAS, This prohibition would preclude the Commonwealth’s ability to create a legitimate online gaming industry within its borders, drive illegal operators out of business and protect consumers; and

WHEREAS, Passage of this measure as Federal law would be inimical to the interests of this Commonwealth, which has been at the forefront of a well-regulated casino gaming industry for nearly a decade and which recognizes the benefits of Internet gaming and its future potential; and

WHEREAS, Over the course of our nation’s history, state governments, not the Federal Government, have determined what forms of gambling should be legal or illegal within their borders and, if legal, how gambling should be regulated or controlled; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania urge the Congress of the United States to defeat the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, introduced as H.R. 707 in the 114th Congress, which prohibits the transmission by wire communication of any bet or wager or of information assisting in the placement of any bet or wager, including Internet gaming; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania implore the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation to unequivocally oppose H.R. 707, which would unduly ban Internet gaming and violate the rights and protections guaranteed to the states under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States; and be it further

RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to each member of Congress from Pennsylvania.

Democratic Chairman Nick Kotik and Rep. Tina Davis, who introduced her own bill, HB 920, earlier this month, are two sponsors HB 649. You can view Davis' bill, which is the third of the session, by clicking here. The other bill is Rep. Nick Miccarelli's HB 695. Of the three, Payne's is expected to gain the most traction.

Thursday's hearing will see Andy Abboud representing Adelson's anti-iGaming agenda, while reps from GeoComply, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, and Caesars Entertainment Group are just a few of the witnesses expected to advocate for iGaming.

Check out PokerNews' interview with GeoComply's iGaming General Manager Valli Ardalan by clicking here.

A second iGaming hearing is scheduled for May 6.

"We have talked to lawmakers in Pennsylvania and they are taking iGaming seriously," Pappas previously told Online Poker Report. "The May 6 hearing will provide a forum to make our best case why the Commonwealth needs to act this year. I have little doubt that online gaming opponents will be out in full force, and we need to be prepared to crush their rhetoric with facts."

PokerNews will have more on iGaming developments in Pennsylvania as they become available.

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