On October 30, 2017, Pennsylvania passed a bill introducing online gambling and daily fantasy sports to the state. The new regulations allowed casinos to offer sports betting as soon as the Supreme Court ruled on this matter. On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court declared the federal ban on sports betting unconstitutional, overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.
Thus, the Keystone State became the fourth state to legalize online gambling. The local iGaming industry is expected to surpass that of Nevada, New Jersey, or Delaware due to Pennsylvania’s large population – almost 13 million, compared to nine million in NJ or three million in NV. Pennsylvania already has a well-established land-based gambling industry, which is second only to Nevada in its size. In 2017, the combined revenue of all Pennsylvania-based casinos exceeded $3,000,000.
The biggest problems facing potential iGaming operators in Pennsylvania have to do with taxes and a high barrier of entry. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has been allowed to issue 39 licenses, and 32 have already been claimed by local casinos during the first two licensing phases. For the third licensing phase, outside entities will be allowed to submit their applications, but each license will cost $4 million, and the companies that receive them will be selected at random if there are too many applications.
What’s more, online casino winnings will be subject to a 34% tax – same as land-based casinos. Judging by other fenced markets, this is likely to have a negative impact on iGaming promotions as legal Pennsylvania sites won’t be able to offer generous bonuses to new or returning players.
This tax does not apply to the casino-style games offered by the Pennsylvania Lottery, which is state-owned and was unilaterally authorized by PA governor Tom Wolf to expand its services to this realm when the new regulations rolled in. Note that the primary function of the PA iLottery is to generate funding for state programs, so this doesn’t give it any competitive edge.
Still, the local casinos weren’t keen on competing with the Pennsylvania Lottery and ended up suing it over this recent expansion. They claim that the Lottery overstepped its boundaries and that the new games rely on imagery that makes them indistinguishable from slot machines. Predicting how the court will rule on this matter seems impossible. Even worse, the lawsuit could sabotage the relations between the casinos and the governor at a time when many important issues, such as interstate player pooling for online poker, haven’t been settled yet.
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (from 18 Pa C.S.A.)
§ 903 Criminal conspiracy
(a) Definition of conspiracy.–A person is guilty of conspiracy with another person or persons to commit a crime if with the intent of promoting or facilitating its commission he:
(1) agrees with such other person or persons that they or one or more of them will engage in conduct which constitutes such crime or an attempt or solicitation to commit such crime; or
(2) agrees to aid such other person or persons in the planning or commission of such crime or of an attempt or solicitation to commit such crime.
(b) Scope of conspiratorial relationship.–If a person guilty of conspiracy, as defined by subsection (a) of this section, knows that a person with whom he conspires to commit a crime has conspired with another person or persons to commit the same crime, he is guilty of conspiring with such other person or persons, to commit such crime whether or not he knows their identity.
(c) Conspiracy with multiple criminal objectives.–If a person conspires to commit a number of crimes, he is guilty of only one conspiracy so long as such multiple crimes are the object of the same agreement or continuous conspiratorial relationship.
(d) Joinder and venue in conspiracy prosecutions.–
(1) Subject to the provisions of paragraph (2) of this subsection, two or more persons charged with criminal conspiracy may be prosecuted jointly if:
(i) they are charged with conspiring with one another; or
(ii) the conspiracies alleged, whether they have the same or different parties, are so related that they constitute different aspects of a scheme of organized criminal conduct.
(2) In any joint prosecution under paragraph (1) of this subsection:
(i) no defendant shall be charged with a conspiracy in any county other than one in which he entered into such conspiracy or in which an overt act pursuant to such conspiracy was done by him or by a person with whom he conspired;
(ii) neither the liability of any defendant nor the admissibility against him of evidence of acts or declarations of another shall be enlarged by such joinder; and
(iii) the court shall order a severance or take a special verdict as to any defendant who so requests, if it deems it necessary or appropriate to promote the fair determination of his guilt or innocence, and shall take any other proper measures to protect the fairness of the trial.
(e) Overt act.–No person may be convicted of conspiracy to commit a crime unless an overt act in pursuant of such conspiracy is alleged and proved to have been done by him or by a person with whom he conspired.
(f) Renunciation.–It is a defense that the actor, after conspiring to commit a crime, thwarted the success of the conspiracy, under circumstances manifesting a complete and voluntary renunciation of his criminal intent.
(g) Duration of conspiracy.–For purposes of 42 Pa.C.S. § 5552(d) (relating to commission of offense):
(1) conspiracy is a continuing course of conduct which terminates when the crime or crimes which are its object are committed or the agreement that they be committed is abandoned by the defendant and by those with whom he conspired;
(2) such abandonment is presumed if neither the defendant nor any one with whom he conspired does any overt act in pursuance of the conspiracy during the applicable period of limitation; and
(3) if an individual abandons the agreement, the conspiracy is terminated as to him only if and when he advises those with whom he conspired of his abandonment or he informs the law enforcement authorities of the existence of the conspiracy and of his participation therein.
§ 5512. Lotteries, etc.
(a) Status of activity.–All unlawful lotteries or numbers games are hereby declared to be common nuisances. Every transfer of property which shall be in pursuance of any unlawful lottery or numbers game is hereby declared to be invalid and void.
(b) Offense defined.–A person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree if he:
(1) sets up, or maintains, any lottery or numbers game;
(2) manufactures or prints, or sells, exposes for sale or has in his possession with intent to sell any unlawful lottery or numbers ticket or share, or any writing, token or other device purporting or intending to entitle the holder or bearer, or any other person, to any prize to be drawn or obtained in any lottery, or numbers game; or
(3) publishes any advertisement of any lottery or numbers game.
(c) Status of purchaser.–The purchaser of any such ticket, or device, shall not be liable to any prosecution or penalty arising out of this crime, and shall in all respects be a competent witness to prove the offense.
(d) Definition.–As used in this section the term “unlawful” means not specifically authorized by law.
§ 5513. Gambling devices, gambling, etc.:
(a) Offense defined. — A person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree if he:
(1) intentionally or knowingly makes, assembles, sets up, maintains, sells, lends, leases, gives away, or offers for sale, loan, lease or gift, any punch board, drawing card, slot machine or any device to be used for gambling purposes, except playing cards;
(2) allows persons to collect and assemble for the purpose of unlawful gambling at any place under his control;
(3) solicits or invites any person to visit any unlawful gambling place for the purpose of gambling; or
(4) being the owner, tenant, lessee or occupant of any premises, knowingly permits or suffers the same, or any part thereof, to be used for the purpose of unlawful gambling.
(a.1) Electronic video monitor. — A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he owns, operates, maintains, places into operation or has a financial interest in an electronic video monitor or business that owns, operates, maintains or places into operation or has a financial interest in an electronic video monitor:
(1) which is offered or made available to persons to play or participate in a simulated gambling program for direct or indirect consideration, including consideration associated with a related product, service or activity; and
(2) for which the person playing the simulated gambling program may become eligible for a cash or cash-equivalent prize, whether or not the eligibility for or value of the cash or cash-equivalent prize is determined by or has any relationship to the outcome of or play of the simulated gambling program.
(b) Confiscation of gambling devices. — Any gambling device possessed or used in violation of the provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall be seized and forfeited to the Commonwealth. All provisions of law relating to the seizure, summary and judicial forfeiture, and condemnation of intoxicating liquor shall apply to seizures and forfeitures under the provisions of this section.
(c) Antique slot machines.
(1) A slot machine shall be established as an antique slot machine if the defendant shows by a preponderance of the evidence that it was manufactured at least 25 years before the current year and that it was not used or attempted to be used for any unlawful purposes. Notwithstanding subsection (b), no antique slot machine seized from any defendant shall be destroyed or otherwise altered until the defendant is given an opportunity to establish that the slot machine is an antique slot machine. After a final court determination that the slot machine is an antique slot machine, the slot machine shall be returned pursuant to the provisions of law providing for the return of property; otherwise, the slot machine shall be destroyed.
(2) It is the purpose of this subsection to protect the collection and restoration of antique slot machines not presently utilized for gambling purposes.
(d) Shipbuilding business. — Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, a person may construct, deliver, convert or repair a vessel that is equipped with gambling devices if all of the following conditions are satisfied:
(1) The work performed on the vessel is ordered by a customer who uses or possesses the vessel outside of this Commonwealth in a locality where the use or possession of the gambling devices on the vessel is lawful.
(2) The work performed on the vessel that is equipped with gambling devices is performed at a shipbuilding or repair yard located within a port facility under the jurisdiction of any port authority organized under the act of December 6, 1972 (P.L.1392, No.298) , known as the Third Class City Port Authority Act.
(3) The person provides the Office of Attorney General, prior to the importation of the gambling devices into this Commonwealth, records that account for the gambling devices, including the identification number affixed to each gambling device by the manufacturer, and that identify the location where the gambling devices will be stored prior to the installation of the gambling devices on the vessel.
(4) The person stores the gambling devices at a secured location and permits any person authorized to enforce the gambling laws to inspect the location where the gambling devices are stored and records relating to the storage of the gambling devices.
(5) If the person removes used gambling devices from a vessel, the person shall provide the Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania with an inventory of the used gambling devices prior to their removal from the vessel. The inventory shall include the identification number affixed to each gambling device by the manufacturer.
(6) The person submits documentation to the Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania no later than 30 days after the date of delivery that the vessel equipped with gambling devices has been delivered to the customer who ordered the work performed on the vessel.
(7) The person does not sell a gambling device to any other person except to a customer who shall use or possess the gambling device outside of this Commonwealth in a locality where the use or possession of the gambling device is lawful. If a person sells a gambling device to such a customer, the person shall submit documentation to the Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania no later than 30 days after the date of delivery that the gambling device has been delivered to the customer.
(e) Penalty. — Any person who fails to provide records as provided in subsection (d) commits a summary offense.
(e.1) Construction. — Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any activity that is lawfully conducted under any of the following:
(1) The act of August 26, 1971 (P.L. 351, No. 91), known as the State Lottery Law.
(2) The act of July 10, 1981 (P.L. 214, No. 67), known as the Bingo Law.
(3) The act of December 19, 1988 (P.L. 1262, No. 156), known as the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act.
(4) 4 Pa.C.S. (relating to amusements).
(f) Definitions. — The following words and phrases when used in this section shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
“Consideration associated with a related product, service or activity.” —Money or other value collected for a product, service or activity which is offered in any direct or indirect relationship to playing or participating in the simulated gambling program. The term includes consideration paid for computer time, internet time, telephone calling cards and a sweepstakes entry.
“Electronic video monitor.” —An electronic device capable of showing moving or still images.
“Simulated gambling program.” —Any method intended to be used by a person interacting with an electronic video monitor in a business establishment that directly or indirectly implements the predetermination of sweepstakes cash or cash-equivalent prizes or otherwise connects the sweepstakes player or participant with the cash or cash-equivalent prize.
§ 5514. Pool selling and bookmaking.
A person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree if he:
(1) engages in pool selling or bookmaking;
(2) occupies any place for the purpose of receiving, recording or registering bets or wagers, or of selling pools;
(3) receives, records, registers, forwards, or purports or pretends to forward, to another, any bet or wager upon the result of any political nomination, appointment or election, or upon any contest of any nature;
(4) becomes the custodian or depository, for gain or ward, of any property staked, wagered or pledged, or to be staked, wagered, or pledged upon any such result; or
(5) being the owner, lessee, or occupant of any premises, knowingly permits or suffers the same, to be used or occupied for any of such purposes.