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New Bill Details How PA Would Ban Online Casinos From Accepting Credit Card Payments

Written By J.R. Duren | Updated:
Banned Symbol Over Man Paying Online With CC

Pennsylvania Sen. Wayne Fontana has followed through on a promise to introduce a bill to ban credit card transactions for online casinos.

The senator announced his intentions to create the bill in March, saying that his goal is to ensure that online gambling’s boom “isn’t leading to burdensome or crippling credit card balances.”

How Fontana’s bill will change PA online casinos

Current state law allows people in Pennsylvania to use a credit card to fund fantasy sports, iLottery, sports betting, and online casino accounts.

Fontana’s PA Senate bill 1159 would end the ability for credit card payments on all forms of online gambling using the following language:

  • “No licensed operator may accept a credit card as a form of payment to fund a fantasy contest account”
  • “The (Lottery) department may not accept a credit card as a form of payment for the purchase of iLottery games”
  • “A sports wagering certificate holder may not accept a credit card as a form of payment for sports wagering”
  • “An interactive gaming certificate holder may not accept a credit card as a form of payment for deposit or wager”

If the Pennsylvania legislature approves the bill and Gov. Josh Shapiro signs it, the credit card ban will take effect 60 days after becoming law.

The news isn’t a big deal for fantasy sports contests as they drive relatively little action. However, it may have a significant impact on sports betting operators, the Pennsylvania Lottery, and the state’s 10 licensed online casinos.

Fontana points to credit card debt and problem gambling as motivation for bill

In an email interview with PlayUSA, Fontana laid out exactly why he submitted the bill and how he thinks it will affect — or not affect — online gaming operators.

When asked how the bill will benefit gamblers in Pennsylvania, Fontana said he believes his bill will curb the potential crisis that could emerge at the intersection of debt and addiction. Fontana said:

“Since the expansion of online gaming and sports wagering in Pennsylvania nearly seven years ago, there is greater access to gambling which in turn increases the number of individuals who may develop a gambling disorder. At the same time, gambling and credit card debt often go hand in hand. The ease and convenience of being able to gamble from the comforts of your home any time or day can create the perfect storm.”

Fontana pointed out that the average credit card customer in Pennsylvania has $5,640 in debt. “I feel that online gaming should be enjoyed responsibly and not at the expense of taking on crippling credit card balances,” he said.

Studies back up Fontana’s claims

A 2020 study from the Gambling Research Exchange Ontario found that gamblers who used credit cards faced a myriad of increased risk factors:

  • “Easy access to money with credit cards may allow gambling problems to persist or intensify. Specifically, gambling with credit cards may put the gambler into debt that they cannot easily repay. And this debt may accumulate faster for quick-turnaround, large-volume gambling formats.”
  • “Use of credit cards to gamble may indicate that an individual has
    increased their degree of borrowing from other sources to fund gambling, including unsecured loans, pawning, and loan sharks.”
  • “Using credit cards to gamble is associated with multiple forms of harm. Resource-related harms include participation in illegal activities (such as fraud) and financial difficulties; relationship-related harms are seen in strained relationships with loved ones and negative family impacts; health-related harms are noted primarily in poor mental health.”

That being said, the study noted that banning credit cards may cause “unfavorable unintended consequences,” including players searching out “anonymized forms of payment” that could “undermine” a credit-card ban’s intentions.

Senator believes online gaming operators aren’t going to suffer

One of the drawbacks of Fontana’s bill, from an operator’s perspective, is that ending credit card transactions could reduce player deposits. Fontana argued, however, that gaming operators can afford to lose that money.

“This is a hard one for Pennsylvania casinos to argue against,” he said. “The industry set an overall gambling revenue record of nearly $5.7 billion last year.”

Fontana pointed out that gaming operators generated more than $515 million of revenue this past March. Additionally, as PlayUSA has reported, Pennsylvania online casinos have been breaking revenue records this year. In February 2024, iGaming operators generated more than $233 million in revenue. It was the third time in four months that casinos won over $200 million in revenue.

“What it comes down to is the casinos have an obligation to not only discourage individuals from gambling beyond their means but also places a potential roadblock and makes it harder for those who are addicted to gambling,” Fontana said.

Banning credit cards could draw customers to illegal gambling sites

Echoing the “unfavorable unintended consequences” observation in the GREO study, an industry source told PlayUSA there’s concern that the Pennsylvania bill could bolster the illegal offshore gambling market. That market, no doubt, would pounce on a credit card ban with incentives for making credit card deposits on their sites, the source noted. 

“On the legal market, users are often required to show proof of financial ability for future deposits and have Pennsylvania’s full suite of responsible gaming protections available to them,” the source said. “It would be a shame for responsible users to leave the legal market simply because they can’t use the easiest method of payment.”

Photo by Kantver | Dreamstime.com; illustrated by PlayUSA
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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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