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State House OKs iGaming, measure goes to Senate for approval

| Tuesday, June 28, 2016, 6:12 p.m.

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvanians could soon be on their way to playing online poker and blackjack from their homes.

In the midst of budget negotiations, the state House voted 114-85 on Tuesday to legalize Internet gaming, or iGaming, and daily fantasy sports.

Taxes on iGaming and daily fantasy sports are in the mix of new revenue sources expected to help pay for the proposed 2016-17 budget. The House-passed budget, voted on Tuesday, would boost spending by $1.4 billion, almost 5 percent, from last year.

The bill moves to the Senate for approval.

Under the gaming proposal, the state's 12 brick-and-mortar casinos could apply for a certificate from Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to host iGaming. Patrons could go on any of the casinos' websites to play slot machine-style and table games.

Access to the games would be “highly regulated” by the board, said Bill Thomas, spokesman for Rep. Rosita Youngblood, D-Philadelphia, sponsor of the iGaming amendment.

The casinos would verify players are older than 21 by requiring them to open an account and provide multiple forms of identification, like a Social Security number, Thomas said.

Software would verify players' location, said Rep. George Dunbar, R-Westmoreland County, a key supporter of the bill. Out-of-state residents would have access when they are in Pennsylvania, he said.

“Internet gaming already exists. We need a regulated environment to protect underage players from gambling,” Thomas said last week. “(This bill) is in the best interest of the consumers, and players are in need of the protections that don't exist in the unregulated gaming space.”

Jeff Sheridan, Gov. Tom Wolf's spokesman, said last week Wolf would support iGaming as part of a final budget agreement, with a caveat. “He wants to ensure the revenue is sustainable and recurring” and that the state lottery system would not be negatively affected, Sheridan said.

It would take nine to 12 months to set up iGaming under the gaming control board, spokesman Doug Harbach said.

Carley Mossbrook is an intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents' Association.

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