Online Casino Sites – Pennsylvania Top in Nation?
Pennsylvania could be the Nation’s Top Online Casino Sites
Pennsylvania is making online gaming news. The state is poised to become the 4th state to legalize online casinos. In doing so, the number of US online casino sites will most likely double or triple in number. Only Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey currently permit online casino operations. But Pennsylvania lawmakers have little time to finalize legislation permitting online gaming before they will be forced to kick the can to 2017.
If Pennsylvania can draw on the success of their neighbor New Jersey, the online casino sites will be a big addition to the already successful gaming program. The current budget is counting on $100 million in new tax revenue. Estimates peg the actual annual revenue in the neighborhood of $250 million or better. In 2016, New Jersey has collected upwards of $145 million year to date. This represents a growth year over year of 32.9%. Since Pennsylvania has a comparable number of potential online casino sites, one would expect the same or better revenue streams.
Pros and Cons Debated
Naturally seeing these potential new tax revenues, one would ask why hasn’t this happened yet? That question remains unanswered. Lawmakers have been ambivalent about fixing the budget with new gaming revenues. For many, the expansion of any online casino site is akin to promoting moral decay. But other counter that argument by reminding lawmakers that online gambling is occurring in the state today. Many illegal sites offer players in Pennsylvania the opportunity to gamble. Like New Jersey, Pennsylvania needs to act to curb this activity through judicious use of the gambling commission and associated regulations.
Other opposition to the expansion into online gambling has been made by some of the operators themselves. The Sands Casino has been vocal about the online casino expansion. They argue that they have made significant investment in the State and region. Online gaming will detract from their operations, leading to diminished revenues and consequently, tax dollars. Their President, Sheldon Adelson has been a leader in eliminating online activities through support of the RAWA Act. With such, the original intent of the Wire Act will be reinstated thereby eliminating the ability of states to make decisions on online casino sites. That would be a decision by the federal government.
Ruling Requires Action
Regardless of what the sentiment may be, Pennsylvania lawmakers may have their hand forced to vote in favor of the online gaming bill. This is the combination of the need to fill the gap in the budget in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that deems Pennsylvania’s gaming taxation system unconstitutional. If the budget line item for online casino revenues is not fulfilled, lawmakers will be forced to raise income taxes and state sales taxes to some of the highest ion the country. That is a difficult pill to swallow in an election year. Further the court ruling will force changes to the tax system within 120 of the ruling date. That leaves little time for action. Lawmakers may just combine the online gaming bill and the new taxation methodology to ensure a stable tax stream for the State and local municipalities that rely so heavily on gaming revenues.
The other factor that Pennsylvania will be considering is that online casino sites, daily fantasy sites and online betting parlors are international plays that will not be going away anytime soon. In other countries, regulations have been enacted so that these activities are controlled and permitted. The industry itself is $99-billion-dollar industry with high expected growth rates. Bricks and mortar casinos have seen contraction in revenues in some cases. Lawmakers will need to fill those voids with new online revenue to ensure that state budgets do not contract commensurately.
Quick Startup Expected if Passed
Since most casino sites are already offering some type of free online casino play, any ramp up should not take long. Mt Airy has been offering online casino play through a partner in New Jersey, 888 casino. The Sugarhouse Casino in Philadelphia has recently began to offer New Jersey resident online gaming opportunities with the addition of their Cherry Hill facility. That said, its not a matter for Pennsylvania lawmakers of stopping online advancement. Rather it becomes a matter of when do we let this occur under the auspices of the state regulations.