The legalization of online poker and gambling has never been closer in Pennsylvania. But in some ways it’s also far away.
The House of Representatives has already passed a bill. The state has agreed to a budget that counts on revenue that would come from online gambling. The watch for online gambling legislation is back on.
But all of that progress belies logistical problems for PA acting now on online gambling and poker.
Short time to get something done
The legislature has promised to pass a gambling expansion — which theoretically would include online gambling — in order to fund the state government.
Promises in politics, however, always should be taken with a grain of salt.
The Senate meets for only nine days total before the November elections: September 26-28 and October 17-29, 24-26.
That’s not a lot of time for a gambling expansion package to be passed, when it appears to be a contentious piece of legislation for the Senate. While online gambling isn’t that controversial in PA, other moving parts being considered are.
Getting a consensus in the Senate on what should be in the gambling bill might not be something that can be handled in nine working days.
Waiting = not good for PA online gambling
Even if online gambling does not pass this month or next, there’s a chance it is handled early in 2017.
That however, brings its own set of problems and concerns.
Some of those concerns were brought up in an interview with Rep. Rosita Youngblood at Online Poker Report:
In January we will have a brand new legislature: new house members and maybe new senate members. We will definitely have two new chairmen of the House Gaming Oversight Committee. So we have to start the whole process from scratch. That lends to it additional delays in getting something passed, and with $100 million on the line that’s a risk we cannot take.
The champion of online gambling in the House, Rep. John Payne, is retiring after the current session, and won’t be back in November. Will there be momentum for online gambling if he isn’t around to spearhead the effort? That’s a point of real concern for online gambling proponents.
Punting yet again on online gambling, this time until the winter or spring, could mean trouble for the effort.[i15-table tableid=20717][i15-table tableid=20704]
PA could be a key for other online gambling efforts
The impact of PA passing or not passing online gambling regulation could reverberate beyond the Keystone State. Since New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware legalizing online gambling and/or poker a few years ago, there have been no new laws passed.
In an earlier column, Steve Ruddock argued that PA is the key to unlocking online gambling in other jurisdictions:
Essentially, when people hear that Nevada or New Jersey legalized online gambling the response is likely to be along the lines of, “Well, that’s not much of a surprise.” On the other hand, if Pennsylvania legalizes online gambling, the response would be more along the lines of, “That’s interesting.”
Pennsylvania, despite its thriving casino industry, isn’t thought of as a “gaming” state, which is why I’m of the opinion it will be a bigger deal when Pennsylvania legalizes online poker, and will help normalize online gambling.
So the crossroads for online gambling is not just for PA, but it could be for efforts around the country.
Those are pretty high stakes. And nine days this fall could determine what happens next.