State Police Still Cracking Down on Small Sports Betting Pools, Lawmaker Seeks Change

Jan 29, 2015

Following last year’s passage of a bill allowing licensed volunteer fire companies and social organizations to sponsor small betting pools, one state lawmaker spoke on the Senate Floor this week and said groups are still being punished for that with Superbowl or March Madness pools.

“The State Police Liquor Enforcement Officers have arbitrarily decided to ignore Pennsylvania law and continue citing our local community volunteer fire fighters and veteran organizations for offering these small, harmless pools,” said Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton County).

Three volunteer fire companies in Northampton County were raided this week, according to Boscola.

Last year, a bill was passed legalizing sports betting pools for certain organizations. But, liquor enforcement officers have cited federal law, which they have said trumps state law.

“The department has taken a very narrow, restrictive interpretation of federal law as it applies to state-sponsored gaming,” said Boscola, “as I said last year, the interpretation is wrong-headed, misguided and baseless. Pennsylvania’s law was specifically structured to avoid conflict with federal statutes.”

Still, Boscola has introduced a bill that builds upon the one passed last year. This one extends the decriminalization to friends, loved ones and colleagues who offer the small betting pools.

“My bill, 338, would update Title 18 and decriminalize these pools if the entry amount is $20 or less, there are no more than 100 participants and all the proceeds are awarded to the contestants,” Boscola said.

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senator pointed out that small sports betting pools are legal in Vermont and Iowa, though the same federal law applies there. Boscola said she hopes to meet with Governor Tom Wolf and the new State Police Commissioner to resolve the issue.