Pennsylvania casino executives, lawmakers split on online gaming

Pennsylvania 2Penn Live – Tuesday’s hearing on the prospect of legalizing Internet-based poker and other games through Pennsylvania brought out the full spectrum of the casino industry’s feelings about the newest wave of gambling expansion.

To be sure, most of Pennsylvania’s current casino operators said they see long-term opportunity in an expansion styled after that implemented in New Jersey last year.

But if past precedent is any example for the present, the range of opinions from the casino operators themselves will likely make any effort to include an Internet gaming expansion into this year’s budget package a tough climb.

Executives and others said their belief, based on preliminary results, is that computer-based games – which players access from their home computers or mobile devices – will reach a new cohort of players who don’t frequent casinos now.

Put bluntly, “it is a possible hook to a group that isn’t hooked yet,” consultant Stephen Mullin told the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee.

Mullin’s firm, Econsult Solutions Inc. of Philadelphia, released a report for the Pennsylvania Legislature last month that showed Internet gaming generating nearly $70 million in new state tax dollars in its first year; about $110 million annually thereafter.

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