Hopes that Pennsylvania was about to join New Jersey in legalising online casinos have hit another setback, albeit a temporary one, as lawmakers have been unable to reach agreement on the shape of the legislation and, crucially, the taxation rules that would accompany it.
This is not the first time that the state has seemed on the cusp of legalising online gambling, only to grind to a halt at the eleventh hour, and many commentators are confident that talks will resume and we will at long last get across the line. As things currently stand, lawmakers are on call, which means discussions could be reconvened at any moment. Alternatively, of course, the question might remain in abeyance till later in the year.
The New Jersey model
When legislators legalised online casinos in New Jersey, it was seen as a test case as to how internet gambling might evolve over the coming years. The legislation restricted both the casinos, limiting them to licensed servers within Atlantic City, and the gamblers, stating that they must play from a computer terminal within the state.
The model has proved a success, and the 15 percent tax on winnings, compared to eight percent on bricks and mortar casinos, has resulted in increased revenue for public funds, too.
So where does that leave Pennsylvania citizens who are keen to place a wager? It is important to bear in mind that there is no law prohibiting US citizens from gambling online. The legislation is entirely aimed at the casinos and the financial institutions. In other words, any US citizen is allowed to place a bet, but the lack of online casinos and the restrictions on the banks in releasing funds makes it difficult to do so.
The first aspect is not really any obstacle at all. There are numerous online casinos in countries all around the world that are legal, regulated and as happy to welcome gamblers from the USA as anywhere else. The UK is a prime example – often described as the world centre of online gambling, bestonlinecasino.uk gives an idea of just how many online casinos there are to choose from, where gamblers can play slots, roulette, blackjack and lots more. Most will even sweeten the deal with special welcoming offers for new members.
The second aspect can be a larger obstacle. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was enforced in 2006 by President George W Bush, and prohibits banks and credit card providers from processing payments for the purposes of internet gambling. Again, the distinction is important. If a US citizen makes such a payment, he or she is doing nothing illegal – but the bank is.
There are means of circumventing these rules by way of prepaid debit cards, but one of the most popular methods of payment is by cryptocurrency. Bitcoin payments are not regulated in the same way, and many online gambling sites are starting to accept bitcoins as a way of attracting US clients.
Ultimately, there can be little doubt that US legislation will be forced to soften its stance when it comes to online casinos. The wealth of other options means that Americans will simply take their business, and their tax dollars overseas. And in the end, that cannot be in the American interest.