Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a bill that would legalize online gambling in their jurisdiction. If it passes, the bill would create the largest regulated igaming market in the United States.

The new online gambling bill was introduced earlier this week by Pennsylvania State Rep. John Payne. (It’s no coincidence that Payne is also the head of the House Gaming Oversight Committee.)

The bill is currently still in draft form and hasn’t been made public yet, but some details have leaked out. According to OnlinePokerReport, the bill will refer to, “interactive gaming,” which leaves the door open to a lot more than just poker.

In interviews with the press, Payne says the move towards regulated online gambling is part of an effort to stay competitive with neighboring gambling market across the Eastern Seaboard:

We looked at the fact that Jersey has it, Delaware has it, Las Vegas has it. It would be a mistake for Pennsylvania to sit here and wait until Ohio has it, Maryland has it, New York has it, and we’re the last ones coming to the game. We’ve got to be up and running and be able to compete with the surrounding states.

Payne’s explanation sounds good on paper, and may well be part of the impetus to jump on the regulated online gambling bandwagon. A more likely reason, however, is Pennsylvania’s looming $2 billion 2016 budget deficit.

Supporters of the bill, like most online gambling supporters, are extremely optimistic about how much tax revenue the new market will raise. They’re thinking it will add something like $120 million to state coffers in the first year alone.

With more than 12 million residents, Pennsylvania is the sixth largest US State by population. New Jersey, by way of comparison, is eleventh most populous state with just under 9 million residents.

Though Pennsylvania has the numbers, and a thriving land-based casino market, things would have to go extremely well that first year to hit a tax revenue goal of $120 million. According to Philly.com, the Pennsylvania market would need to do around $857 million in gross revenue its first year to make that number.

Given that New Jersey igaming operators only managed to pull in around $122 million in actual revenue in year one, Pennsylvania’s goals seem a bit on the high side.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing in front of Pennsylvania lawmakers in April.


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