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Casino Gambling: Pennsylvania Legislation Calls For Criminalizing Online Poker

Will Pennsylvania Legalize Or Criminalize Online Card Games?

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Pennsylvania is talking about legalizing online poker, but a group of lawmakers would rather see it criminalized.

House Bill No. 801, sponsored by state Rep. Thomas Murt and co-sponsored by four other lawmakers, was filed Friday. Murt announced in January that he was crafting such a bill.

The filing came the same week that lawmakers in both the House and Senate held a joint hearing on legislation that would allow the state’s 12 casinos to have internet betting. Nearly all of the casinos in the state want it, but Parx, the largest in the state in terms of revenue, testified at the hearing that it doesn’t think online gaming should be legalized because it would, allegedly, cannibalize existing gaming revenue.

The state’s casino market was $3.2 billion last year, but revenues have been flat for several years. Neighboring states are beefing up their respective industries.

Murt’s two-page bill states that the Gaming Control Board “shall not promulgate rules and regulations allowing any form of internet gambling.”

“No individual or entity shall solicit, invite, collect or accept cash or any other form of currency through the internet for the purposes of wagering or betting,” the bill reads. “No individual or entity shall organize, or cause to be organized, any type of gambling event that is held over the internet.”

The bill states that there would be fines and jail time for violating the law.

According to the way the legislation is written, simply playing online poker in the state wouldn’t be a crime, but any role in offering online poker to Pennsylvanians would be.

It hasn’t been all bad news this month.

The best news for Pennsylvania’s online casino efforts is arguably MGM’s recent agreement to purchase Sheldon Adelson’s one and only Pennsylvania casino. As everyone in poker knows, Adelson wants online gaming banned. His possible exit from the Keystone State, combined with MGM’s support of internet betting, bodes well for online wagering.

Pennsylvania has a live poker market worth nearly $60 million a year.