With the impressive revenue collected in Pennsylvania from their thriving gambling industry, gaming expansion is a logical next step in looking for solutions to a struggling budget. This has brought up the question of integrating iGaming into the state’s existing gambling market. Rosita Youngblood, Democratic State Representative of the 198th House District, calls for the focus of discussions to include not only viable revenue, but also protection of the state’s citizens.
Youngblood is pushing for comprehensive legislation that highlights strong regulation concerning legalizing online gambling in the commonwealth. As most people do, Youngblood recognizes that online gambling already exists in PA, it is just unregulated at this point. Proponents of new legislation feel that the existing unregulated space of iGaming is a danger to those struggling with problem gambling and to potential underage players.
Wired Safety, which is a national online child advocacy organization, recently testified Congress and the PA House of Representatives. This organization strongly supports iGaming regulation through state oversight as illustrated in their commissioned whitepaper. They believe that families need the support of state regulation so that they do not have to deal with the consequences of problem or underage gambling on their own.
Following testimony and lengthy discussions, gambling expansion bill HB 2150 was passed that included the regulation and legalization of online casino gambling in Pennsylvania. The legislation also paved the way for a future online and offline sports betting initiative should the federal government legalize sportsbook gambling at some point. Youngblood is satisfied that the bill includes strong standards for addressing problem gambling and providing additional funding for treatment programs.
Among the standards that companies providing internet gambling would need to adhere to include support systems for players struggling with problem gambling issues. Some of these measures include voluntary limits to bets and losses, and self-imposed suspension actions once a player has reached a designated level of losses. Age and location verification software will be implemented by Onus. Players will need to be at least 21 years of age, and be physically located in Pennsylvania. They will also be required to register at an existing brick and mortar casino offering online gambling access. Internet gambling was just one area of the market addressed in the gambling expansion bill, which touched on just about every segment of the industry.
Youngblood feels confident that the bill places the appropriate attention on regulation that not only keeps PA competitive in the gambling market, but that also provides consumer protections from the potential harm that iGaming can have on vulnerable players. The bill must still face passage in the Senate before it can become law.