As my colleague Eric Frank previewed here, a bill has been introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate regarding internet gaming. The latest bill, SB 900, was introduced on June 9 sponsored by Senators Ward, Tomlinson, Vogel, Scarnati, Bartolotta, and Stefano. The bill goes beyond just internet gaming, though, and it remains to be seen whether this bill is the result of a compromise among various interests or is too broad to pass.
As with the several other bills we have covered, this bill would allow Pennsylvania casino licensees to offer internet gaming. However, Category 3 facilities – the two smaller facilities (Valley Forge and Nemacolin) that are part of resorts – would not be authorized to offer internet gaming. An internet gaming permit would have a $10 million fee attached with a $1 million renewal due every five years.
Servers used for internet gaming must be located within the casino’s facility in a secure space; there is no provision for the use of off-site data sites, except for back-up servers which may be located at another site in Pennsylvania only. Platform and software providers would have to be licensed by the PGCB as a manufacturer.
Gross internet gaming revenue would be taxed at 54%.
Interestingly, if a person lives within 20 miles of a casino that offers internet gaming, that person must open an account in person and may not do so online. If implemented, this would be unique to Pennsylvania, as other internet gaming states allow accounts to be opened online regardless of the proximity of a patron to a facility.
But Wait – There’s More
This bill contains two key provisions that would significantly alter the dynamic of land-based casinos in Pennsylvania. The first change would be to Category 3 casinos. These casinos are not open to the general public unless a patron either utilizes other amenities of the resort, such as restaurants or hotel rooms, or purchases a membership. Needless to say, this requirement affects the number of customers who might visit a Category 3 facility. This bill would allow Category 3 facilities to escape the membership requirement, provided that the casino pays a fee of $5 million if the facility is located in a first through third class county and $2.5 million in any other county. This would significantly change the dynamics of Category 3 casinos.
Second, the bill allows the establishment of “nonprimary locations” and “ancillary facilities” – essentially, satellite casinos limited to 250 slot machines each. Category 1 facilities (racetracks) would be allowed to open four such facilities each and Category 2 facilities would be allowed to open two. There are geographic restrictions as to where these facilities may be opened – no closer than 20 miles to another facility, except for within the City of Philadelphia, where that restriction is 10 miles. These facilities would have a $5 million license fee. This, too, would change the overall dynamics of casino location in Pennsylvania.
It remains to be seen whether this legislation advances through the Senate, and how it will reconcile with the several bills that have been introduced in the House.