The launch of Pennsylvania’s online betting industry is already in motion and one of the aspects that are expected to take a center stage in the industry’s operations is mobile betting. Casino game enthusiasts in the Commonwealth will be able to place their bets from virtually every location within the state’s borders.
No. Wait! As it turns out, the above claim is not entirely true. While gamblers will be able to legally bet using their smartphones from anywhere in the state, there are some specific places where they will not be allowed to place bets using their smartphones, that is, within any of the Keystone State’s 13 licensed casinos.
Often overlooked, the state’s gambling expansion law that was passed in October last year legalized a number of new ways through which gamblers could place bets but at the same time gave the licensed land-based casino operators the green light to prevent gamblers from accessing interactive casino games while they are inside the gambling establishments. For this, these casinos will be utilizing the same cell-phone technology that will be used to determine whether players are within the state’s borders or not – in essence, they will have information about who you are as well as your location.
Protecting Casino Tax?
Apparently, this exclusion does not apply to sports betting and was put in place beforehand as a means of protecting tax revenue since initially, the tax rates for online betting was lower than the tax rates for betting in land-based casinos.
The tax rate for land-based and online casino gambling have since been equalized (54 percent for both virtual and land-based casino slot machines) thanks to a bill that was recently approved by the state’s General Assembly but the language that was calling for an electronic fence, so to speak, remains intact. This has caught the attention of a number of stakeholders in the industry including the casino operators themselves.
Some of the industry officials are speculating that the exclusion was not an oversight but rather a small concession to the horse-racing industry which has been receiving close to 10 percent of the casinos’ slots machine revenue for quite a while now. As per the stipulation of Pennsylvanian gambling laws, the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Trust Fund will continue to receive a piece of the slots action in brick-and-mortar casinos. The trust fund will, however, not receive anything from interactive gaming, including online slot machines.
“You won’t want anyone placing a bet on online slots while on the casino floor, and horsemen wouldn’t be getting that cut that they have been promised,” elaborated Lindsay Slader, vice president of regulatory affairs for GeoComply.
GeoComply is a vendor of geolocation services that online casino operators use to verify the exact position of online players.
Sports Betting Is an Exception
Even though it is certainly going to take some time as the state regulator and the operators mull over the issue, bettors will not have to worry about the same restrictions when it comes to sports betting. According to the PGCB’s spokesman Doug Harbach, the state’s temporary sports betting regulations allow bettors to bet from anywhere within the state including inside the brick-and-mortar casinos.