In-Person Registration Idea floated for Pennsylvania Online Poker

Aside from the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, there may be no more dreaded phrase among online gaming enthusiasts than “in-person registration.” This idea first became a reality in California, where Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s online poker bill included an in-person registration clause that would force online players to register/deposit at local casinos. Luckily this amendment was scrapped, but now the concept has resurfaced in Pennsylvania. That said, let’s discuss who’s pushing for in-person iGaming registration as well as what negative consequences it would have.

Parx Casino calls for Controversial Amendment

Philadelphia’s Parx Casino and Racing has recently begun lobbying Pennsylvania politicians to include an in-person clause in any potential online gaming legislation. Don Ryan, Parx’s VP of Gaming Development, explains that this would create a better relationship between the casino and its customers. Furthermore, Ryan believes that this would help develop synergy between online poker/casino sites and land-based casinos, rather than creating competition between them.

What’s Terribly Wrong about this Idea?

The obvious problem here is that in-person registration obliterates convenience, because nobody wants to travel to a brick-and-mortar casino to deposit and register for an online casino. Furthermore, this will hamper some of the iGaming market’s success, given that many online gamers don’t visit land-based casinos. This fact is backed up by Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith, who says that 75% of their New Jersey iGaming customers do not have land-based customer accounts with them.

Another major problem with this concept is that its proposed benefits are not really benefits at all. In-person registration is supposed to prevent underage players from signing up, drive more foot traffic into casinos and keep iGaming sites from stealing customers from brick-and-mortar casinos. Well, let’s look at the real case with these “benefits” below:

1) There have been no reported instances of an underage player signing up in Delaware, New Jersey or Nevada. Internationally, there have only been a handful of underagers creating real money accounts at online poker and casino sites.

2) Rather than driving more foot traffic into casinos, in-person registration might just keep more players from bothering to sign up – thus hurting both realms.

3) As Smith’s comments indicate, iGaming isn’t cannibalizing brick-and-mortar casinos, but rather supplementing them.

Will Pennsylvania go for this Concept?

So far, almost every land-based casino already likes Rep. John Payne’s proposed HB649 legislation as it is. Payne’s bill would legalize both online poker and casino games, and allow for interstate compacts in the future. And, no, there isn’t any mention of forcing people to register in person at casinos.

Most of the state’s politicians seem on board with the idea of legalizing online gaming and giving their casino industry a better chance to compete with neighboring states. This being the case, it seems highly unlikely that the Pennsylvania House and Senate will demand that in-person registration be included in any potential iGaming bill.

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