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Eastern Action Online

Eastern Action Online

The Eastern U.S. could become a hotbed for iGaming if two more states follow through on moves to legalize the activity. Already legal in New

Jersey and Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York are now considering legalization.

Pennsylvania officials have been holding public hearings on keeping its casino industry competitive including the possible legalization of online gambling, with the latest held at the Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington, Pennsylvania.

The hearings are being held through the state’s House Gaming Oversight Committee at various venues around the state.

“This is a great opportunity for us to get out in the field,” said state Rep. John Payne, head of the committee. “I’d rather get out and talk directly to the customer, instead of sitting in Harrisburg inside the white marble walls.”

Payne himself has introduced a bill to license online gambling through the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The hearings focused on that bill as well as regulatory processing and marketing the state’s casino industry to other states.

Another gambling bill is reportedly being prepared for introduction as well in the state. The new bill, from state Senator Sean Wiley, would cover a number of gaming initiatives including allowing existing casinos in the state to offer online poker.

Though the bill has not been introduced, Wiley said in a statement that he wants to include language to grandfather the state against any attempt to impose a federal ban on online gambling. There is currently a bill before the U.S. House of Representatives—backed by Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson—to do just that, but the bill has not been gaining traction.

Wiley’s proposal would make online poker available “no sooner than Jan 1, 2017 with regulations, licensure effective no sooner than July 1, 2016.”

The bill would require a $500,000 online gaming license fee and a tax rate of 36 percent on revenues.

There are also two other online poker bills introduced to the state House and one bill seeking to ban online gambling in the state.

Speaking at the hearing were several Meadows executives, including Bill Paulos of Cannery Casino Resorts, owner of the Meadows, and Sean Sullivan, general manager of the track. The track officials supported online gambling in the state.

Sullivan suggested that the state consider using up-front fees as an advance payment toward taxes as well as a 10 percent revenue tax on online gambling. He also backed a full slate of online casino games rather than limiting online gaming to just poker.

Suggestions were also made at the hearings to have alcohol service at casinos 24 hours a day and also to reduce the amount of harness racing days in the state to increase purses.

In New York, Senator John J. Bonacic has sponsored a bill that would legalize online poker. It would authorize “the New York State Gaming Commission to license certain entities to offer for play to the public certain variants of internet poker which require a significant degree of skill, specifically ‘Omaha hold ‘em’ and ‘Texas hold ‘em’.”

The bill would allow at least 10 operators of poker sites. Each license would cost $10 million and expire in 10 years. License holders would also have to pay a tax of 15 percent of their gross gaming revenue to the state. Bonacic says the bill would protect consumers by standardizing rules and regulations and preventing illegal offshore sites from operating in the state.

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