The watch for Pennsylvania online gambling appeared to be over — at least for the immediate future — just last week, when it looked like the state was very close to passing a budget. Efforts to pass a gaming expansion bill — which included regulation of online gaming and poker — were slated to be taken up again in the spring.
The only certainty now in Pennsylvania? After a budget agreement collapsed and extended what is now the longest budget impasse in state history, it appears that state lawmakers and the governor are back to square one.
What does that mean for online gambling? From comments last week from the bill’s sponsor, it would seem like the bill will remain on the sidelines during the budget process, and will be considered on its own merits.
But given the chaos in the state government right now, would it be at all shocking to see online gaming back on the table?
Where does the PA budget stand?
The short answer? Nowhere.
After the House defeated a pension bill that was a de facto way to scuttle the entire budget, the state appears to be no closer to passing a budget than it was in June, when Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill sent to him by the Republican legislature.
Wolf and House Republicans can’t even agree on a stopgap budget that would fund the government in the short term.
So, right now, the future of the budget is entirely in doubt. Wolf and Senate Republicans had been on the same page, but the House has been unwavering in trying to get its way. All that translates to a lot of unknowns for passing a budget.
Where does the online gambling bill stand?
The bill in question — HB 649 — is still “on the table” in the state House. It theoretically could be voted on at any time, although there’s really no indication that will happen.
The bill’s immediate prospects are also complicated by reports that amendments to the bill — particularly regarding video gaming terminals — would make the bill toxic in the Senate. (The bill does appear to have the votes to pass the House, as is.)
If the basic framework of the budget is still in question, there is at least a chance that nearly anything could be considered in trying to hammer out some sort of compromise.
Seeing online gambling pop up again in the middle of the budget crisis still seems like a longshot. But one has to imagine almost anything could happen in Pennsylvania’s unpredictable budget impasse.