Dueling Op-Eds Highlight Differences, Lack of Education in PA iGaming Debate

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Pennsylvania’s online gambling debate has divided state legislators into two camps, generally seen as one looking to legalize online gambling in any form, regardless of the costs such legalization may carry for the state’s live gambling scene, and another approaching the matter more cautiously, looking for regulation but aiming to protect the brick and mortar casino industry too.

There’s a third camp involved in the tug-of-war too, one that wouldn’t mind seeing the whole legal initiative head the way of the garbage bin. Obviously there are brick and mortar gambling interests out there that would prefer not to have any sort of online legalization at all. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson has made his standpoint clear in this regard numerous times, as have a few other high-profile casino owners and companies.

The impromptu battle of online gaming legalization supporters and opponents spilled into the local press over the last week, when Franklin and Marshall College Associate Professor of Marketing Jeffrey S. Podoshen published an opinion piece at philly.com on what he believes will be the negative effects of legal online gambling on the incumbent brick and mortar interests in the state.

Podoshen’s Arguments

Of all possible examples, Podoshen opted to bring up the New Jersey market, which – quite contrary to his own claims – is in fact the main success story and precedent that proponents of online gaming regulation bring up all over the country. For some reason, instead of soaring revenues, expanding B&M operations and a completely new market segment being tapped, Podoshen sees the results of online gambling legalization as “suffering” and a “landscape riddled with abandoned buildings.”

An Apparent Anti-iGaming Agenda

His mentioning of Sands Bethlehem as a shining exception suggests where Podoshen’s loyalties may lie, if one is inclined to believe that most everyone writing on this topic has an agenda.

Over the course of his article, the professor conveniently overlooks every study and statistic pointing to the various ways through which online gaming breathed new life into the Boardwalk’s bogged-down B&M operations. He also omits that AC’s declining revenues and “sunk costs” were at least partially brought about by the introduction of B&M gambling in Pennsylvania, to begin with.

In the end, he pulls the let’s instead invest in “capital, people and infrastructure” card, which is always valid of course, though not an especially relevant counter-argument to the state’s exploration of regulated online gambling as an additional revenue source.

The response to what some have called Podoshen’s hack piece, came in the shape of a guest editorial by Jeff Ifrah of Ifrah Law PLLC, posted at pennlive.com.

Ifrah’s Arguments

To counter Podoshen’s either ignorant or plainly ill-willed reasoning, in his article, Ifrah resorted to actual studies and statistics, which clearly assessed the economic impact of regulated online gambling in New Jersey. The conclusion was that there was no cannibalization of B&M revenues, and that land-based casinos actually managed to expand their client-base while diversifying their revenue sources through the newly available online channel.

Legal online gaming clearly does not turn land-based gamblers into online ones, Ifrah concludes. Rather, it brings people to the online tables who would never have considered setting foot in a B&M casino.

New Jersey’s new industry has indeed generated nearly $1 billion in revenue, of which $124.4 million landed in the state’s coffers. Some 3,374 jobs were created, some of them high-end tech jobs, while $218.9 million landed in the pockets of these new employees. To top everything off, the Garden State’s authorities haven’t registered a single online cheating/fraud incident over the last 3 years.

Conclusion

Whether one sides with Podoshen or Ifrah on this issue, there’s plenty of evidence that properly regulated online gambling can indeed generate revenue, jobs and economic growth for the state of Pennsylvania.

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