International edition
June 13, 2021

Exclusive interview with Pennsylvania's Rep. George Dunbar

“My guess is that online gaming and poker will get done in Pennsylvania”

“My guess is that online gaming and poker will get done in Pennsylvania”
After recent news that Pennsylvania's online gambling legislation has been postponed until autumn, George Dunbar, architect of HB2150, talks reasons why the bill stalled in the senate and gives opinion on the future of iGaming in the Keystone State.
United States | 07/20/2016

After recent news that Pennsylvania's online gambling legislation has been postponed until autumn, George Dunbar, architect of HB2150, talks reasons why the bill stalled in the senate and gives opinion on the future of iGaming in the Keystone State.

W

hy wasn't the bill taken up now?

Hb2150 (which is my bill) passed the House with more votes than any other gaming bill in our history. The bill was an omnibus bill that included not only Internet Gaming but also fantasy gaming regulations, slots in airports, the ability for our category 1 casinos (casinos with a race track) to each open 4 slot parlors, and new rules for our category 3 (resort licencees). The anticipated revenue in year 1 was 266 million all of which would have come from license fees. The bill after it left our chamber got stuck in the Senate. With a bill with that much stuff in it, one could always find a reason to be against it. Senators representing casinos (there is at least one) who were opposed to internet gaming objected, and others representing our category 2 casinos (normal casinos with no race track affiliation) also had objections. Our thoughts were that they would be able to work out those differences but as time ran down on the budget the tug of war in the senate continued. So instead of killing HB 2150 completely they agreed to book anticipated revenues of 100 million (far less than what we forecasted) in order to get the budget balanced. I do not believe this was the Governor who has seemed agnostic to online gaming as much as it was a power struggle amongst the senators.

What's next for online gambling in Pennsylvania? What can we expect according to your projections?

Since we have booked revenue from gaming I'm anticipating a final decision in September or October as to the particulars I am not certain. My guess is that online gaming and poker will get done and the other items in the bill will be passed over.

“Sometime in the future, I see the U.S. being similar to Europe”

How do you assess the regulatory framework in the U.S.? What is it that is making it difficult for gaming expansion in the country?

The regulatory framework in the US is not a big issue with this legislation. The only regulation that prohibits expanded gaming is the sports betting laws. Included in HB 2150 was that if the federal government ever removes the prohibition on sports wagering our casinos will be able to start booking bets on that as well.

“The main challenge is provincialism, senators representing only their own region or casino and not the Commonwealth as a whole”

What are the main challenges facing the bill?

The main challenge is that 12 casinos which don’t always agree on which direction is best. Each of which pressure their respective senator/legislator to push a certain direction. If the industry would agree the bill will move quickly. So the main challenge is provincialism, senators representing only their own region or casino and not the Commonwealth as a whole.

In your opinion, which will be the next states to follow igaming regulation? Which are making progress?

I can’t honestly answer seeing the issues I have had getting this done in PA. I assume like everything else once we finalize, neighboring states will as well to remain competitive. It may be a while but sometime in the future I see us being similar to Europe, where internet gaming is prolific. Consumers tastes have changed, in order to attract millennials we will need internet gaming or our revenues will drop.

The idea is to use the revenue to fix a budget deficit in the state's pension program, what would be the economic impact of the proposed bill on the state?

HB 2150 has projected revenues of 266.7 million in year one, 217 million in year 2. As I mentioned before we have only booked 100 million, so it is yet to be determined how much of 2150 will go into law. In addition to HB 2150 we also increased our tax on table games in PA from 14% to 16% which is projected to generate 16.8 million.

I assume you're following the North Jersey gambling expansion case. Based on conversations with public officials and gaming experts, how do you foresee the scenario evolving?

I have been following the situation. Pa has several casinos near New Jersey which attracts quite a few consumers from outside our borders. One thing I have learned about gaming issues, you can never predict outcomes so I will not opine.

 

George Dunbar is a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, representing the 56th Legislative District in Westmoreland County. He was first elected in November 2010.

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