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Pennsylvania Bill Could Change Status Quo On Using Credit Cards For Online Casino Play

Written By Derek Helling on March 11, 2024 - Last Updated on March 12, 2024
dome of pennsylvania capitol building

Using a credit card to fund your play on a licensed Pennsylvania online casino app is probably not the best decision. Depending on the exact circumstances connected to your card, it might not be a practical option. However, it’s currently not illegal for casino operators to accept such deposits.

That could change if a forthcoming bill in the Pennsylvania legislature becomes law. Pennsylvania would break ground with that adjustment. It might inspire similar restrictions for US online casinos, too.

Pennsylvania senator signals credit card gambling ban bill

Many details of a bill to ban the use of credit cards to fund accounts for PA online casinos are still unknown. That’s because Pennsylvania Sen. Wayne D. Fontana has yet to actually file the bill.

Fontana has issued a memo to his colleagues in the chamber, however. The memo calls for co-sponsors for the bill, explains the overarching goal, and details Fontana’s motivation for the proposal. In the memo, Fontana writes that:

“March is ‘National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.’ Often called a ‘gambling addiction’ or ‘gambling disorder,’ this behavior becomes a problem when an individual develops a strained relationships with loved ones, borrows money to gamble, gambles to experience a high or feeling, and misses work, school, or other activities and obligations in order to gamble.

Gambling and credit card debt often go hand in hand since this disorder can lead to financial problems that affect one’s ability to pay off debt. Therefore, I will be introducing legislation that would prohibit the use of credit cards for iLottery, online casino games, and sports betting and fantasy sports. With the average Pennsylvanian having a credit card balance that exceeds $5,640, online gaming should not be another scenario to accumulate more debt.”

Fontana’s concern about the intersection of credit usage and online gambling is well-founded. For example, a 2022 study by University of Liverpool researchers found that “those who accumulated the largest losses over the year were therefore about three times more likely to have used a credit card than the generality of customers.”

A separate news release from Fontana’s office does not disclose how soon the senator plans to introduce the bill or if Fontana is close to gaining co-sponsors. It’s unclear right now how far this proposal will carry.

At the same time, the conversation around the measure itself could spark change for Pennsylvanians and the greater US.

Credit card use for online gambling already a loaded premise

Despite it technically being legal for online gambling companies to accept deposits made with a credit card in Pennsylvania, whether or not players in Pennsylvania can or should do so are different matters entirely.

Those matters all depend on bank policies. Some credit card issuers like Bank of America and Citi will not process online gambling transactions. Even for those who do, cardholders can face an additional cost.

Many of the credit card issuers that do allow online gambling transactions do not treat such transactions as they would a coffee run or a flight ticket purchase. Instead, they code such transactions as cash advances.

Discover became the latest network to announce this policy on March 8, 2024. For the cardholder, that likely means any online gambling transaction will immediately be subject to interest according to the card policy. Thus, using a credit card to fund online casino play could be more costly for players.

If Fontana’s bill is successful, Pennsylvania online casinos will no longer have the option to accept such deposits. That could be even more significant because of Pennsylvania’s place in the US online gambling industry.

Pennsylvania’s credit card ban could have widespread impact

Pennsylvania would not be the first US state with legal online gambling to ban using credit cards to make deposits. Iowa has that distinction. Tennessee and Massachusetts have followed.

However, Pennsylvania would be the first to do so while allowing online casino play for real money. In Iowa, Massachusetts, and Tennessee, playing online casino games for actual US dollars remains illegal.

Legal online gambling in those states is currently confined to betting on horse races and human sporting events. Thus, Pennsylvania would represent the state with the most robust online gambling scene to outlaw credit card deposits.

It’s uncertain to what extent that would have a ripple effect regarding other state legislatures enacting similar laws. It may have a more immediate effect when it comes to online gambling companies’ policies.

Although most US states with legal online gambling do allow such deposits, none of them have laws on the books stating that online gambling licensees have to accept such deposits. They could choose not to accept them.

Pennsylvania’s law might also motivate more card issuers not to process such transactions. Regardless of the broader ramifications, Pennsylvania online casino players might be wondering how they might adjust if this bill becomes law.

Cash options for Pennsylvania online casino players

Fontana’s memo and release make no mention of banning the use of debit cards. Thus, that could still be an option for Pennsylvanians should his bill become law.

However, the use of debit cards to fund online gambling transactions would still be subject to card issuers’ policies. People wanting to play on licensed casino apps in Pennsylvania should check with their banks in that regard.

Other options for Pennsylvanians include cash at the casino and physical prepaid cards. When it comes to being able to use such methods to fund online gambling play dependably, cash at the casino is the most reliable.

To fund your account using that route, you must visit a physical casino connected to the online gambling app you wish to use. The personnel at the casino cage can assist you in depositing cash into your online account. You will know that those funds are immediately available for use online.

Prepaid cards are growing in popularity for use for online gambling because many online gambling brands are issuing their gift cards. Some of these cards even offer a bonus you can redeem in the apps. These cards offer a similar assurance that the funds will be accepted for immediate use.

There are some third-party prepaid cards that online gambling companies will accept as well. In such instances, however, you need to check with the policies attached to the card and the online gambling company you wish to play with. Such funds may not be immediately available or fees may be associated with online gambling transactions using the cards.

Digital payment options other than credit cards

Some digital options may be viable for gamblers in Pennsylvania. These include ACH payments from checking or savings accounts and digital wallets.

Some online gambling companies will accept deposits from certain digital wallets like PayPal. Again, you need to check with the specific app(s) you want to use for their policies on such deposit attempts. The biggest benefit of such payment options is that there’s no need to visit a casino or retailer physically.

While ACH payments offer the similar convenience of being entirely digital, such funds may not be available for immediate use. Depending on the circumstances, it could be days before the funds are available, and only if the corresponding bank will process the transaction.

If Fontana’s bill becomes law, Pennsylvanians will still have numerous options for depositing their online casino accounts. For some residents of the state who struggle with problem gambling, a ban on credit card deposits could provide an additional safeguard.

Photo by AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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