Hear From the Lawmaker Who Wants to Grow Online Poker in Pennsylvania

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Shared liquidity in online poker may be coming to Pennsylvania thanks to a state lawmaker’s efforts to “nudge” Governor Josh Shapiro into entering the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA).

While there is technically nothing stopping Pennsylvania from entering the multi-state compact with Nevada,New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan and West Virginia, House Bill 2078, introduced by State Rep. George Dunbar, would initiate the process through the legislative body rather than relying on action from the governor.

“This action, also known as ‘shared liquidity’, is critical to a healthy online poker system,” Dunbar wrote in a memorandum to his fellow House members on Feb. 14. “Much like what we have seen with multistate lottery contests, joining MSIGA will mean more players in the overall player pool. This makes for bigger tournaments allowing operators to offer bigger guarantees.”

Dunbar, who himself is a poker player, recently spoke with PokerNews ambassador and Twitch streamer Keith “AccidentalGrenade” Becker about his efforts to bring shared liquidity to The Keystone State and its 13 million residents.

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“Shared Liquidity is a Big Thing”

Dunbar, a Republican, has poker roots that date back to his childhood. “I’ve always been a poker player. Even as a little kid playing for pennies.”

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In the 1990s, Dunbar began playing on online sites like partypoker and Full Tilt Poker and “was pretty relatively successful then” before Black Friday shut down online poker in the US.

“I had quite a bit of dollars tied up when Black Friday came, but the DOJ did make me whole eventually.”

It was Dunbar’s experience with Black Friday that encouraged him to write HB 271 in 2017, a bill that legalized and regulated online poker and casino games in Pennsylvania. Now, Dunbar wants Pennsylvania to have a shared online poker pool.

“If you are a poker player, it means a lot. I am a poker player, and there’s a huge difference between playing a $20 or $30 buy-in tournament with 600 people in it and a few thousand people in it,” Dunbar said. “There’s a world of difference there.”

“I had quite a bit of dollars tied up when Black Friday came.”

“Shared liquidity is a big thing for poker tournaments. Sharing that liquidity with other states makes higher payouts, higher win amounts. It’s very much like Powerball and the lottery.”

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Growing Poker in Pennsylvania

Not only would Pennsylvania joining MSIGA be good for poker players, it would also be good for the state as a whole, according to Dunbar, who argued that Pennsylvania could return to being at the top of the list of revenue generated from poker” after falling behind New Jersey.

“So for Pennsylvania taxpayers, it’s more revenue,” he said. “It’s not substantial; it’s not earth-shattering. But it is more.”

Online Poker

While Dunbar noted that gambling legislation “is not something that I think is high on (Gov. Shapiro’s) priority list,” he added that “it’s something he could do easily” and that he doesn’t see any hurdles in the way of his bill passing through both legislative bodies.

“Nobody’s opposed. There’s no reason to be opposed, to be honest with you.”

“My colleagues that play poker, they all know and they’re all supportive because we play poker together, just like any other place where there’s 200 people together, you find people who have a shared interest … But nobody’s opposed. There’s no reason to be opposed, to be honest with you.”

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Dunbar encouraged Pennsylvania residents who are interested in supporting HB 2078 to reach out to the governor’s office, their local representatives and House Majority Leader Matthew Bradford, who Dunbar noted is a poker player.

“He does play poker,” said Dunbar, “because I’ve played poker with Matt.”

The poker industry site Pokerfuse is calling on poker players in Pennsylvania to bring awareness to the bill by using the hashtag #GrowPApoker on social media and by contacting state officials.

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