Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to punish online gamblers

02.13.14 | Bob Price

As Pennsylvania studies the potential of legalizing online gambling, state representative Mario Scavello wants to set up a road block to web-based wagering.

The Monroe County Republican has outlined a plan to penalize people who gamble online, which is illegal but not punishable in Pennsylvania. Scavello believes online gaming poses a threat to children who could easily find the sites and especially dangerous to problem gamblers who could go all-in and lose from the comfort of their living rooms.

“Here again, online gambling is best described as the Wild West. Online, there’s no one around to keep an eye on someone who doesn’t know when to stop,” Scavello said, adding that the use of gaming sites is on the rise.

Scavello’s bill would aim to curb that, making first violation a summary offense that carries a possible $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail. A second violation would be a misdemeanor bringing a chance of a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail.

“I believe that if you hit people in their wallets, we can start to crack down on the lawbreakers,” Scavello said.

The coalition to stop internet gambling voiced immediate support for Scavello’s proposal, pointing to a recent poll that found 62 percent of Pennsylvania voters oppose the legalization of online gambling.

If allowed, online gambling would mark another watershed moment for Pennsylvania’s gaming industry after slot machines were approved in 2004 and table games OK’ed in 2010.