Blackjack players in Pennsylvania could soon have the opportunity to play blackjack online as well as other casino games like slots, poker, and craps. Legalization of online blackjack in Pennsylvania could happen as early as this July after lawmakers meet for the first legislative session of 2016. Earlier efforts were tabled as state budget concerns took precedence. (2018 November update here)
If approved, online blackjack would be part of a bill that expands and enhances land-based casinos in Pennsylvania. The chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, State Rep. John Payne, is optimistic that the new provisions will be approved making Pennsylvania the latest state to reap the potential benefits of legalized online betting.
When discussing gambling online, Payne did not attempt to obfuscate the principal appeal of legalization. “We need revenue,” Payne stated before going on to explain that lawmakers in the state are not willing to increase taxes. He said that the potential revenue to be gained makes a consideration of online gaming necessary.
Some individuals in the online casino industry as well as members of lobbying groups like Poker Players Alliance have already begun to applaud the state’s willingness to consider legalized blackjack and poker. Chris Capra is the marketing director for 888poker and 888casino, two of the world’s largest websites featuring online betting games, and he believes that Pennsylvania is a large market that could be strategically important in the fight to legalize online gambling across the United States. There are only three states that currently allow players to bet with their computer or phone—New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada. In each case the online platforms are essentially extensions of land-based casino companies such as Caesar’s Entertainment but 888poker and 888casino provide platforms in all three states as well as overseas.
Capra also claims the gaming regulators in New Jersey have already begun sharing information with regulators in Pennsylvania, a telltale sign that approval of online gambling is likely.
Pennsylvania may be feeling the pressure because of casino competition from neighboring states. New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland, and Washington D.C. are all expanding land-based casino gambling. New Jersey online casinos made $14 million dollars in December, the best month they have had in the two years that online betting has been available. In 2015 the online extensions of Atlantic City live casinos made $149 million from Internet gambling. The numbers may simply have become too great for Pennsylvania to ignore.
Another factor that seems to have influenced lawmakers is the current popularity of daily fantasy sports. Platforms like Draft Kings would almost certainly be permitted under the new law in Pennsylvania. Read more here
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