Pennsylvania flirted with online gambling in 2014, as lawmakers in the Keystone State proposed amendments to the budget and introduced legislation, received the results for a comprehensive gaming expansion study telling the state to “DO IT,” and hosted a coupled of iGaming hearings in the both the House and Senate.
As the legislative calendar flips, I’m anticipating further progress in PA, building on the foundation from 2014. Basically, the flirting period is going to come to an end and a full-fledged courtship will start in 2015.
Here are six of the most important players who will help shape the online gambling debate in Pennsylvania next year. There will certainly be other individuals who play a key role, but these are six people you should already have your eye on.
Kevin O’Toole is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, a position he has held since 2009. O’Toole is a long time gaming regulator having worked with the Oneida Indian Nation Gaming Commission from 1997 to 2009 and before that with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement from 1981 to 1997.
O’Toole appeared at the House Democratic Policy Committee hearing in April, where he seemed ready to take on the task of overseeing Pennsylvania’s online gaming industry if the legislature could get a law passed.
Look for O’Toole’s confidence in his PGCB to get the job done to play a big part in legislative talks in 2015.
Rosita Youngblood called for and chaired the iGaming hearing that convened in front of the House Democratic Policy Committee, and the longtime representative of Philadelphia has been one of the more vocal proponents of online gambling in the state.
Youngblood is something of a go-to person in the state house, formulating messaging and talking points for her caucus, as she is often quoted in local newspapers and seems to be one of the driving forces behind Pennsylvania’s online gambling efforts.
As the Chair of the Gaming Oversight Committee the road to legal online gambling in Pennsylvania begins with Rep. Youngblood.
Representative Davis is another iGaming Champion in the Pennsylvania legislature, having introduced the state’s first real attempt at an online gambling bill back in April of 2013. The Davis bill has been called “the blueprint” for future efforts.
Davis also took part in the House Democratic Policy Meeting earlier this year, and even though she seems to have taken a backseat in Internet gambling talks to Rep. Youngblood and State Senator Edwin Erickson in recent months I fully expect Davis to be part of any movement towards legalized online gambling in PA in 2015 .
The Chairman of the Parx Casino is considered by many to be one of the most influential voices in Pennsylvania gaming and gaming politics.
Green’s public comments have been pretty clear thus far, as it appears the Parx Chairman is far from sold on online gambling, but at the same time he has no intention of letting the Parx Casino get left behind if and when it does happen.
Don’t expect any type of early support from Green, but he will almost certainly play a role offering input and suggestions as legislation is crafted. Green will make sure Parx’s interests are reflected in any online gambling legislation that passes in PA.
Like Green, Adelson’s Sands Bethlehem Casino is one of the biggest revenue generators in the state, which, along with Adelson’s incredibly deep political pockets, amplifies his point of view and the number of ears who will listen to him.
Unlike Green and Parx, Adelson and Sands are vehemently opposed to online gambling and have no intention of jumping on the iGaming bandwagon even if a bill appears inevitable.
Adelson is fighting online expansion in states where he doesn’t have a financial interest (California) so it’s almost a certainty that he will be extremely vocal as Pennsylvania inches towards legalization in 2015.
One important factor to consider is that as a casino owner in Pennsylvania Sheldon Adelson is unable to contribute to statewide elected offices, which may hurt his political clout in the state.
I’m taking a flyer on former Pennsylvania Governor being used as a surrogate for online gambling following his strong performance in his debate with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown at GiGse last week.
Rendell would make a terrific spokesperson for online gambling advocacy thanks to his strong messaging and communication skills, as well as his reputation in the state.