October 30, Monday was a big day for advocates of online poker throughout the nation, as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill that legalizes online gambling, thereby making it official that his state shall soon become the fourth one in the country to have licensed and regulated Internet-based poker sites.
On October 25, Wednesday, Pennsylvania's House of Representatives have voted 109-72 in favor of House Bill 271, a major gambling expansion bill that included not only the legalization of online poker, but also online casino gambling as well as daily fantasy sports. Thanks to the governor's signature, avid poker fans and players in the Keystone State were relieved that this excitement has not turned out to be another frustrating letdown.
It sure has been a very long wait for Pennsylvanian poker players, and a hard-fought battle by lawmakers in the House and Senate who were met by strong opposition.
Back in January 2016, the optimism was high that a similar bill would pass; however, due to clashing views later that year by lawmakers, they ended up not agreeing on how impactful the proposed measure would be on their state's economy.
With the bill signed, Pennsylvania joins Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada as the only states in America with legalized online gambling. Recently, those three states have agreed to a shared liquidity deal that shall enable interstate player pool sharing for the very first time. It is still too early to speculate whether Pennsylvania will join in on this deal.
Just like in New Jersey and Nevada, the opportunity to play online poker in Pennsylvania is also open to non-residents of the state, just as long as they are staying in the state if and when they choose to play.
Many are hopeful that Pennsylvania's decision to legalize online poker will cause a domino effect, triggering other states to hop on the bandwagon. So far, three of the biggest states in the nation: California, Illinois, and New York, have legislation related to online gambling moving through various stages of the lawmaking process.
The newly-signed Gaming Act of 2017 shall allow the state's 12 land-based casino operators to apply for a license so they can offer online poker games. Also, should it become legal at the federal level, online casino gaming, sports betting and daily fantasy sports will also be allowed.
Gambling operators shall be charged a $10 million licensing fee for the rights to offer slots, table games, and poker, or $4 million each.
Online poker and table games will be taxed at 16% of gross gaming revenue, whereas slot machine revenues will be taxed at 54%.
Also, Pennsylvania's new gambling law allows truck stops in the state to install video gaming machines.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that Sheldon Adelson, who does not support the presence of online poker, is in the process of selling his highly-successful Sands Bethlehem casino.
Online poker in Pennsylvania is expected to launch next year, though there's no specific date yet, as regulators must first sort out their licensing and testing processes.