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Pennsylvania Lawmaker Plans to Launch Internet Gambling Debate

In Pennsylvania a proposal to legalize internet gambling could be introduced in the Pennsylvania House as soon as next week. State Representative Tina Davis, D-Bucks County, acknowledged that her proposal faces a rough time in the legislature which is dominated by right wing Republicans. Davis predicts that Pennsylvanians will be able to gamble online legally ‘someday.’ Davis stated “It will happen eventually.” In December 2011 a federal Justice Department opinion said that online gambling is legal within states that already allow casino gambling. Three states have moved to legalize internet gambling; Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada.

Nevada passed a bill allowing internet poker and has issued licenses to several gaming firms although games have not started. Delaware hopes to be up and running by September 30th of this year. Last week a bill was introduced in Nevada that would allow gaming companies to accept players from other states. Last week Delaware asked for bids to a system that would offer Delaware residents a wide variety of casino games. Nevada internet gambling will be limited to poker for now. New Jersey Governor Christie vetoed an internet gambling bill but said he will sign it if changes are made. Democrats supported the changes and expect to have a bill on Christie’s desk shortly.

The American Gaming Association is lobbying for a federal bill that would limit internet gambling to poker. Davis’s district is home to Parx casino near Philadelphia. Davis said that Pennsylvania has surpassed New Jersey as the country’s No. 2 gambling state and has generated more gambling revenues. Davis told reporters “Considering the nationwide efforts to legalize Internet gaming, it is imperative that we maintain the integrity of our gaming industry amid inevitable federal pre-emption and competing states, as well as possible expansion of Internet games through the privatization of our own state lottery.”

Initially Davis’s proposal would only permit online poker and blackjack along with several game variants currently played in Pennsylvania casinos. Davis stated “We tried to determine what the most popular types of online games there were out there, but we also didn’t want to discourage folks from going to the casinos. We tried to strike a balance.” Only companies with Pennsylvania gaming licenses would be eligible to operate internet gaming websites. The Gaming Control Board would be in charge of inspecting and approving game software. For now the possibility of Davis’s bill making it through the legislature are slim.

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