On March 1, a new bill was introduced to the Keystone State’s legislature. HB 657, the bill in question, proposed an increase in the severity of penalties for offenses to underage gambling at the state’s land-based casino establishments. The legislation currently sits with the House Gaming Oversight Committee and no specific date for a hearing has been scheduled as of this writing. Championed by hard-hitting Republican Rep. Thomas Murt, who hails from a district north of Philadelphia, the proposed fines would increase for the underage gamblers themselves which is rather odd as many expected that the casinos would be more liable for allowing minors into their facilities.
As stipulated by the state’s current gambling laws, wagering or even attempting to wager at a table game or slot machine in Pennsylvania can result in a fine ranging between $2000 and $1,000 – any winnings obtained from the activity is also confiscated. Subsequent offenses will result in fines of between $500 and $1,000 as well as up to 40 hours of community service. The new bill seeks to not only increase the fines but also have the minors also fined for merely entering a casino.
Here is a breakdown of the proposal:
For being on the casino floor if under age 21:
- First offense: fine up to $250
- Second offense: fine up to $500 and not less than 20 hours of community service
- Third offense: fine up to $1,000 and not less than 50 hours of community service
For wagering or attempting to wager if under 21:
- First offense: fine up to $500
- Second offense: fine up to $1,000 and not less than 40 hours of community service
- Third offense: fine up to $2,000 and not less than 100 hours of community service
Is Underage Gambling That Big A Problem?
The Keystone State’s gaming control board does not release data on the prevalence of underage gambling or attempted underage gambling but according to Rep. Murt, “gambling among young adults is currently at a high level”. The lawmaker cited some studies that have revealed that young people aged 18 to 21 were more susceptible to gambling-related harm. He believes that while the motivations for gambling may vary from one individual to the next, among younger adults it is mostly driven by the desire to make some money or for enjoyment, both of which are very risky despite being absolutely fine so long as the player is of legal gambling age.
Gaming regulators in Pennsylvania have not turned a blind eye to these issues anyway. The PGCB, for instance, puts offenders (underage gamblers) on a casino exclusion list. If passed, the new bill will make this a law with the underage gamblers being subjected to 6-24 months on the exclusion list for merely entering a casino, at least 12 months for a first time attempt to wager, 2 years for a second attempt and a minimum of 5 years for the third offense. All these will begin when they turn 21.