Poker-Playing Politician Pushes for Expansion of PA Online Poker Poker-Playing Politician Pushes for Expansion of PA Online Poker

Pennsylvania Rep. George Dunbar (R-Jeannette) likes to play online poker.

He’s been playing for years, and remembers the days before Black Friday when he could easily find an online tournament with a $20 buy-in and $20,000 guaranteed. He even won about “five or six grand” from a $24 buy-in on partypoker back in the day.

Now, as the lawmaker from western Pennsylvania works through his last term in the state House of Representatives before retiring, he has introduced legislation that would expand online poker in PA, and what could ultimately be the most consequential piece of legislation devoted to online poker in 2024 — a bill that calls for the state, the nation’s fifth-largest in terms of population, to join a multi-state gaming compact to support online poker: the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA).

“I have always thought it was a really good idea,” Dunbar told Poker Industry PRO in an exclusive interview, published Friday. “Liquidity is a big deal in poker. If you play poker, you know that something like this means more players, larger pots — and larger pots mean more players. And it will help with revenues as well.”

With 13 million residents, Pennsylvania would be the largest member state of MSIGA. The compact currently has 25.3 million residents across its five members states — Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, and West Virginia. MSIGA would grow to 38.3 million with the Keystone State aboard.

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Sponsor Thinks Governor Will Sign Bill

Dunbar and five other House lawmakers, including one Democrat, introduced HB 2078 on Tuesday. It was immediately referred to the House Gaming Oversight Committee.

It’s a short bill. Coming in at just two pages, HB 2078 authorizes the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to request to join MSIGA within 30 days of the bill becoming law.

If both houses of the General Assembly pass the bill before the current legislative session ends on November 30, it would go to Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro’s desk for his signature, although it would still become law if he doesn’t sign it.

Dunbar thinks he will.

“If the General Assembly wants to run the bill and move the bill forward, I’m sure it will meet with [Shapiro’s] approval — I would assume,” Dunbar said. “Or he can still just do it unilaterally, to tell you the truth.

“The idea was to raise awareness and to say, 'Look, not only is it Nevada and New Jersey, but also Michigan, West Virginia, and Delaware, are all doing this. Why are we the only poker playing state that’s not involved?”

Pennsylvania Already in Lottery Compacts

While an exact answer to Dunbar’s question remains elusive, he has a pretty good idea why Pennsylvania isn’t in MSIGA.

Joining the compact isn’t something that’s on Shapiro’s radar.

“This is not high on this list of priorities, so I figured I would just poke him a little bit and introduce it. That way it puts it on his radar,” Dunbar said.

“There’s no harm here. We have a lottery and we have shared liquidity lottery with Powerball and Mega Millions. It’s the same concept. We’re in multi-state compacts there, [online poker] shouldn’t be any different.”

He also thinks HB 2078 will pass the General Assembly. He pointed out that it has bipartisan support already.

“Gaming legislation does not know a party affiliation. It’s always bipartisan, all gaming legislation works like that. I’m in a minority in my chamber by seat — but it’s something I could work on and maybe get accomplished.”