Pennsylvania Lawmakers Consider iGaming

As a state House committee in Pennsylvania began hearings on the first of three iGaming bills, opposition to Sheldon Adelson’s federal anti-iGaming bill emerged. Las Vegas Sands Senior Vice President Andy Abboud (l.) echoed the opinions of his boss, Sheldon Adelson, that iGaming endangers minors.

Pennsylvania lawmakers began hearings last week on the first of three internet gaming bills last week, as opposition to billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s campaign to ban iGaming surfaced in the state.

The Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee met to consider Rep. John Payne’s bill to establish a regulatory framework for online poker and casino gaming. The measure originally addressed online poker only, but was amended to include casino games.

One of the highlights was the public reaction to testimony by Las Vegas Sands Senior Vice President Andy Abboud, who appeared as a representative of LVS Chairman Sheldon Adelson to speak against all online gaming. Abboud was shouted down after delivering Adelson’s usual arguments that iGaming is a “threat to minors,” and that the largest internet companies have had “tremendous difficulty” restricting access to their websites by minors.

Rep. Tina Davis, sponsor of one of the three iGaming bills before the legislature, took the opportunity to ask Abboud about the record of Sands Bethlehem, which has been fined in each of the past five years for allowing teenagers to drink and gamble in the land-based casino. Abboud declined to answer.

Mirroring the general public’s disdain for Adelson’s campaign to ban internet gaming, the full Pennsylvania House passed a resolution last week urging the U.S. Congress to reject the Adelson-supported bill H.R. 707, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which would impose a federal ban on all internet gaming.

Also sponsored by Payne, the measure is explicit in its criticism of RAWA.

“A federal prohibition against internet gaming would directly and negatively impact Pennsylvania by foreclosing the future potential of Internet gaming to generate tax revenue, to create economic and employment opportunities, including high-tech software jobs, and to foster valuable business ventures for Pennsylvania casinos,” the measure reads. “H.R. 707 would prohibit the commonwealth from authorizing and conducting internet gaming and from capturing new tax revenue for Pennsylvania.

“This prohibition would preclude the commonwealth’s ability to create a legitimate online gaming industry within its borders, drive illegal operators out of business and protect consumers. Passage of this measure as federal law would be inimical to the interests of this commonwealth, which has been at the forefront of a well-regulated casino gaming industry for nearly a decade and which recognizes the benefits of Internet gaming and its future potential.”

The measure goes on to say the federal ban would “violate the rights and protections guaranteed to the states under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.”