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It's Official -- Pennsylvania Lawmakers Pass Poker Bill

State May Host Poker Games in as Soon as Six Months


Pennsylvania will have live poker in 2010.Spurred on by a threat from the governor that he would have to cut state jobs by the end of this week if the legislature did not act, the Pennsylvania Senate and House finally came to an agreement yesterday to pass a bill that officially legalizes table games, including poker, in the state. Governor Ed Rendell signed the legislation into law today.

The chambers had all but consented to the addition of table games in October, when the House and the Senate approved a state budget that allotted funds that were created by the new table games. There was only one significant problem – they hadn’t actually legalized the table games yet.

After months of wrangling over the details — concerning how many tables a casino should be allowed to have (answer: 250 in stand-alone casinos, 50 in smaller resort casinos), whether or not consumers should be allowed casino credit (answer: they will be, despite some conservative criticism), and just how much it should tax the new table games (answer: 14 percent in the first year, 12 percent in the second year) — the House approved the hotly contested bill just after 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, 103-89.

The Senate had approved the bill, 28-22, late on Tuesday.

State Republicans, who hold the majority in the state senate, originally opposed the expansion of gambling in the state, but switched their position upon growing concern over the financial realities of the state.

“If we were in a surplus situation, this discussion would not be happening,” the Republican senate majority leader Dominic Pileggi told The Morning Call newspaper. “We have an historic crisis in our economy … we need to look to find revenue.”

The new table games are expected to raise about $640 million in taxes over the next two years.

Poker, blackjack, craps, and other table games will all be allowed under the new legislation. Companies will begin applying for licenses soon, but the games will not likely start for six to eight months.