Feds' online gambling decision worries some in Pa., NJ

Feds determine most online gambling sites are legal

Thanks to a new federal ruling, you might be able to gamble legally from your own computer.

Some worry the move could have negative consequences for both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The Sands Casino in Bethlehem proved to be a lucrative gamble for the Lehigh Valley, bringing in tax dollars and of out-of-state visitors who otherwise might not visit.

"Some of them are making money hand over fist," said Pa. Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks Co. about the commonwealth's 11 casinos.

Now though, casinos in Pennsylvania and in Atlantic City potentially face stiff new competition from online gaming operations. 

For years, federal prosecutors claimed online gambling was illegal, driving many sites off-shore. 

In a decision made public on Friday, however, the Justice Department said most online gaming sites are legal.  The exception is sports betting sites.

"This is a human weakness that they prey upon, and to me, that's just wrong," said Clymer, who worries it will lead to a flood of new, highly addictive gambling sites.

"You're going to have more dysfunctional families, more public welfare, more crime," said Clymer.

But the gaming industry points out millions already gamble on foreign websites that generate no taxes or jobs.

"It's already going on," said Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association. "We know that for many years here, in the recent history, we have 10 to 15 million Americans who are going online and gambling offshore with actual websites."

One online gambling opponent is Sands chief Sheldon Adelson, who has said he worries that kids will be able to gamble. 

The Sands has pointed out the opposition is only Adelson's personal opinion, and that the company has not taken an official stand. 

Clearly though, there are also questions about whether the move will hurt the Sands' business.

Fahrenkopf, whose group is lobbying for a national law legalizing online poker and regulating it, said such fears are unfounded.

"The people who go online and wager are not the people who get in their cars and drive to a casino," he said.  "It's a totally different mindset."

Experts said they think state lotteries would be the first to jump into this, offering online poker, slot games, or ticket sales.

This Week's Circulars

Pennsylvania News

Latest From The Newsroom