Controversial Natural Gas Tax Derails Online Gaming For The Time Being In Pennsylvania

Steve Ruddock October 6, 2017 509 Reads
Pennsylvania Online Gaming.

The Pennsylvania legislature has done it again. After a week of positive news surrounding the backroom negotiations between leadership in the House and Senate, it appeared a light had finally appeared at the end of the state’s budget tunnel. After months of negotiations, Pennsylvania’s budget was coming into focus, with the passage of the long-awaited funding bill expected at any moment.

And then on Wednesday, the wheels came off.

On a day when a vote on a budget package was anticipated, the House floor descended into chaos, and the legislature adjourned until October 16.

Meanwhile, the state continues to operate without a budget, and Pennsylvania continues tumbling down a fiscal cliff with its residents suffering the consequences.

What happened

A group of House Republicans made a last-ditch effort to fully fund the budget without creating a new tax on natural gas drilling companies.

Their solution was an unpopular tax increase on hotels in the Keystone State.

When that attempt seemingly failed the House descended into what can only be described as utter chaos.

With the House in turmoil, Governor Tom Wolf had some harsh words for House Republicans, as he announced he would borrow money to fill the deficit.

“Too many Republicans in the Legislature are more focused on the 2018 elections than on helping Pennsylvania succeed,” Wolf said. “They’d rather see me fail than Pennsylvania succeed. They’d rather protect special interests, they’d rather protect lobbyists and campaign donors than do the right thing. I’m not going to play their games anymore, so I’m drawing a line in the sand.”

Where does this leave online gaming?

A less controversial part of the budget is a kitchen sink expansion of gaming that has been standing in the on-deck circle for most of the year.

According to the most recent reports, the major components of the gaming reform bill are as follows:

  • Legalization of online casino and poker games;
  • Legalization of daily fantasy sports;
  • Authorization of online lottery products;
  • Authorization of video gaming terminals (VGTs) at truck stops; and
  • Authorization of casino-owned, satellite (slot) casinos.

Multiple sources have said passage of the gaming reform package was contingent upon a budget agreement being in place.  But that was before tempers flared in the House.

Passing a gaming reform package before the budget is agreed might be putting the cart before the horse, but with the budget deal seemingly falling apart that is one of the options now on the table.

However, the hope is the legislature will take the next two weeks to cool off, and reconvene on October 16 and finalize a budget deal that seemed so close just a week ago.

The bottom line

The Pennsylvania legislature isn’t running out of time to finalize its 2017/2018 budget, it’s already run out of time. Lacking a budget, the state has been borrowing to meet its obligations, and each day that passes without an agreed upon budget causes more and more problems.