If the federal law limiting sports betting in most states is overturned, state Rep. Rob Matzie wants Pennsylvania to be in a position to quickly take advantage of it.
"Sports betting is a $400 billion business in the United States," Matzie, D-16, Ambridge, said in a Tuesday statement. "Most of that betting takes place illegally, through bookies and off-shore wagering companies. This bill would position Pennsylvania's casinos to be among the leaders in sports betting as soon as the legal hurdles are removed."
The American Gaming Association estimated that $4.7 billion would be bet on the Super Bowl between New England and Atlanta with 97 percent of that coming from illegal wagering.
Matzie's House Bill 519 would make sports betting licenses available to slots license holders, which could offer it in casinos and off-track betting sites.
Casino operators wishing to offer sports betting would have to pay a $5 million fee for a license that would be good for three years. Renewing the license would cost $250,000 under Matzie's bill.
There would be a 16 percent gross revenue tax, which would be directed into the state's general fund, and a 2 percent local share tax with 25 percent of that money going to both the host county and municipality and 50 percent to the host facility.
Also, at least $2 million a year would be earmarked for the Compulsive and Problem Gaming Treatment Fund.
Former state Rep. Nick Kotik, D-45, Kennedy Township, introduced a less-detailed sports betting bill in October 2015, but it did not move out of committee. Currently, sports betting is limited to Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana.
However, New Jersey has challenged the federal prohibition on sports betting for other states. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court delayed taking on the case, instead waiting on a new U.S. solicitor general to take office and weigh in the matter.
"This is encouraging, given that President Trump has addressed his stance on the sports betting industry -- and his support for legalization -- on at least two occasions," Matzie said in his statement.
On Wednesday, Matzie told The Times that the political climate in Harrisburg coupled with an estimated $2 billion deficit should bode well for sports betting's future in the state.
"The political will to raise revenue in any type of tax just doesn't exist," he said, "and this is a way to raise revenue."
Matzie also said professional sports leagues' dim view of sports betting might be wavering some with the NHL approving an expansion team for Las Vegas and the NFL's Oakland Raiders announcing plans to move there.
There are 12 casinos in Pennsylvania, including three in southwest Pennsylvania: Lady Luck Casino at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Fayette County; The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington County and Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.
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