Pennsylvania took one step closer to legalizing online gambling, as a tax bill that counts on $100 million from a gambling expansion appears to be on its way to passage.
Online gambling, part of the budget
Negotiations regarding gambling were fluid throughout the week, as lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf attempted to hammer out a budget deal. Actually, Wolf allowed a spending plan to become law early in the week, and he and the statehouse later hammered out a revenue package to fund it.
Part of that package is $100 million from gambling. Legislation that will generate that money be taken up in the fall.
It wasn’t immediately clear if online gambling would be a part of that package, but later it came to light that licensing fees from iGaming were a part of the legislature’s plans. Previously, the fate of online gambling had been on a roller-coaster ride.
Optimism warranted for iGaming?
Of course, the fact that online gambling isn’t passed yet gives anyone hoping that online poker and gambling will come to Pennsylvania reason to pause.
But no less of an authority than Rep. John Payne — the chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee — was optimistic:
“The short version is this: Anything can happen between now and then, and the only thing I can guarantee 100 percent is that on Nov. 30 I am retiring,” Payne told Online Poker Report. “But I do think it’s going to become law.”
There are still at least a couple of months until the bill is drafted and taken up — possibly as early as September.
So, when will Pennsylvanians be able to play online poker?
In a best-case scenario, the gambling package comes up in September and gets through both the House and Senate in quicker order. The bill could be voted on and signed by the governor by October.
Passing a law doesn’t mean the lights get turned on immediately. Regulations have to be promulgated, and operators have to be licensed. How long from law to the first online poker or gambling site going live would take is a variable that would certainly take more than a few months, but less than a year. Six to nine months would seem like a safe bet.
Of course, in a worst-case scenario, something scuttles the online poker and gambling effort. But passage of an iGaming law appears to be a heavy favorite, right now.