Bucks Democrat proposing House bill for online gaming

Demonstrating I-Gaming by Bally Technologies. State Rep. Tina Davis (D., Bucks) plans to introduce a bill in the Pa. House.
Demonstrating I-Gaming by Bally Technologies. State Rep. Tina Davis (D., Bucks) plans to introduce a bill in the Pa. House. (SUZETTE PARMLEY / Staff)
Posted: March 09, 2013

A bill that would legalize Internet wagering in Pennsylvania is to be introduced next week by State Rep. Tina Davis.

The Bucks County Democrat confirmed Thursday that she might introduce the measure in Harrisburg as early as Wednesday. Davis - whose district includes Parx, the state's top-grossing casino - cited recent moves by New Jersey and Delaware as the reason Pennsylvania needed to get started on the issue.

"We wanted to get the conversation going," she said. "We're working on some changes" to the bill. "I got a lot of feedback from the different stakeholders, including the casinos."

On Feb. 26, New Jersey joined Delaware and Nevada as the only states to offer online gambling, when Gov. Christie signed a measure that included revisions he sought after a veto.

Under Davis' bill, online-license-application fees would be set at $10 million each. Gross online gambling revenue would be taxed at 20 percent. Only those holding both slot machine and table-game licenses would qualify for online-gambling licenses, since Internet wagering would be conducted by the Pennsylvania casinos.

Bill Thomas, executive director for the Democrats on the House Gaming Oversight Committee - where the measure will first be considered - said Davis wanted to introduce an Internet-gambling bill last year. Time ran out before the session ended in October.

Whether the bill gains traction depends on "whether there is enough appetite in the House to do it," Thomas said. "We have a Republican majority in the House that has been mostly antigaming."

State Rep. Paul Clymer (R., Bucks), who opposes gambling and its expansion, plans to introduce his own bill to make online gambling illegal.

Thomas said the online-gambling bill's other provisions deal with problem gamblers, such as a trigger mechanism in the software that would lock the account of someone with consistent losses in a short time.

The seven-member Gaming Control Board would have to approve the manufacturers and distributors providing software for online gaming.

Nevada legalized intrastate online poker over the summer. Delaware is to launch online gaming Sept. 30 at its three racetrack casinos. Unlike New Jersey's I-gambling law, Davis' bill does not include language to allow for interstate compacts for online poker tournaments and the like.

"If we do not protect our casinos and money in Pennsylvania," she said, "we will be hurt by all the competition."

Contact Suzette Parmley

at 215-854-2855 or sparmley@phillynews.com.

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