Fall Breathes New Life Into Online Gaming Legislation In PA and MI

Steve Ruddock September 15, 2017 2378 Reads
Pennsylvania Online Gaming.

It was a busy week on the online gaming legislative front, with not one but two states revisiting the issue: Michigan and Pennsylvania.

A new online gambling bill seeking to smooth out some of the wrinkles that have plagued previous efforts was introduced in Michigan on Tuesday. An informational hearing took place on Wednesday, and while the tenor was upbeat, it sounds like Michigan is going to need to take a few more passes with an iron before the pesky wrinkles go away.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, the House of Representatives returned to work and managed to pass a long-elusive funding package for the state’s 2017/2018 budget. Nestled within the funding bill was $225 million from gaming.

Both developments were welcome news, but there is still a lot of work to be done before adding another state to the list of states with legal online gaming becomes a reality.

Pennsylvania budget begins to come into focus

After several months of stonewalling legitimate efforts to reach a compromise agreement between the House and Senate, it appears House Republicans are finally ready to pull up a chair, roll up their sleeves, and hammer out a deal that will fund the budget they passed several months ago.

On Wednesday evening the House passed a party-line budget funding bill, which is seen as the next important step in the process.

The package is expected to undergo some major reconstructive surgery in the Senate next week to make it more amenable to moderate Republicans and Democrats.

Even though the budget has been roundly criticized, the House Republican’s willingness to take this all-important step seems to indicate the holdouts in its caucus are realizing they’re running out of runway, as the state officially ran out of money on Friday.

Rumor has it lawmakers will stop receiving their paychecks next month, which might light a fire under their butts to get the budget finalized.

Gaming will be in the budget, but…

… at this point, it’s unclear what specific gaming reforms the legislature plans to use to reach the $225 million in new gaming revenue the budget proposal calls for.

The good news is the House earmarked the same $225 million the Senate had previously called for, which comes from a combination of online gambling, online lottery, daily fantasy sports and several other gaming reforms.

Not included in the Senate’s $225 million, and therefore ostensibly not included in the House’s proposal, was the controversial VGT plan the House was pushing for earlier this summer.

What happens next?

The Senate is supposed to tackle the plan sent over by the House on Monday, and if both chambers can get on the same page the budget will likely be passed in the coming weeks, followed quickly by the gaming reform package.

On the other hand, if the two chambers can’t reach a budget agreement, it’s not out of the question that gaming could be tackled separately.

The state still needs to fix the local share tax issue, and if they wait too long to legalize online gambling and online lottery, they may not be able to meet the budget projections since it will take some time to get both industries off the ground and up and running.

The lowdown on online gambling in PA

Basically, progress is being made, but there are still a lot of unknowns in Pennsylvania.

What is crystal clear is the situation in Harrisburg will be quite fluid over the next couple weeks as the House and Senate try to reach a budget agreement both legislative bodies can pass.

A new bill, but the same story in Michigan?

A new online gambling bill emerged in Michigan this week, but unlike previous efforts last year and earlier this year, this time it’s the House of Representatives making the push.

Rep. Brandt Iden, the chairman of the House Regulatory Reform Committee, introduced his bill, HB 4926, on Tuesday, and followed it up with an informational hearing on Wednesday.

Iden’s bill is similar to previous efforts put forth by his Regulatory Reform counterpart in the State Senate, Mike Kowall, but it also tries to clean up some of the problems that have caused Kowall’s bills to stall, namely how to balance tribal and commercial casino interests.

However, it doesn’t seem to go far enough.

During Wednesday’s hearing, all three commercial casinos, MGM Detroit, Greektown, and MotorCity, were opposed to the legislation as written, as was the one gaming tribe who went on the record.

The lowdown on online gambling in Michigan

Michigan keeps stepping up to the plate and taking its cuts. Unfortunately, thus far, the state hasn’t been able to align online gambling with all stakeholders.

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