New Jersey and Delaware are scheduled to launch Internet gambling this fall, with both states trying to counter the loss of gambling dollars to neighboring states.
But don't expect Pennsylvania to quickly follow suit, William H. Ryan Jr., chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, said Tuesday at a conference in West Philadelphia.
"I don't see any real groundswell right now for Internet gaming," Ryan said during a panel discussion on regulation with officials from New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Florida.
Ryan spoke of a more likely route to gambling expansion in Pennsylvania.
"What we are seeing is far more interest in legislation that would give the thousands of bars and social clubs the authority to have small games of chance," Ryan said.
"The strength of the lobbying groups in those areas is probably greater," he said. "All of them have very close contacts to the representatives in both the House and the Senate."
The Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday passed legislation that would allow bars to conduct games of chance, including raffles and drawings.
Taverns would give 60 percent of the money to the state. It is not clear how much money could be raised. It depends on how many of the 11,000 eligible businesses apply for licenses. State revenue estimates range from $60 million to more than $200 million annually.
Lawmakers also have not settled on how the money raised from tavern games would be used.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are not likely to remain on the sidelines of Internet gambling forever.
"It may be that they will wait and see long enough to see how New Jersey makes it work and how much revenue can be produced and to see if there is going to be any damage done by [Internet gaming] to the brick-and- mortar casino industry," Ryan said.
Internet gambling is scheduled to begin in Delaware by the end of this month, with the state offering online slots, poker, blackjack, and roulette.
Ed Sutor, president and chief executive of Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, said he planned to use Internet gaming to pull gamblers to the casino.
"I'll give those people so many incentives to come back to my place, you won't believe it," he said.
Internet gambling is scheduled to start Nov. 26 in New Jersey, after a five-day invitation-only trial.