What once looked like a sure thing in Pennsylvania — online gambling — continues to see the can kicked down the road.
The latest for online gambling in PA: 2017
The House recently passed an omnibus gambling expansion bill, one that included the legalization and regulation of online gambling.
Action on the Senate side of things in the short term already seemed unlikely. But now we know the upper chamber apparently has no desire to tackle the issue right this second.
The Senate will be back for its traditional one-day “sine die” session Nov. 15. It could pass the House measure that day — but it almost certainly won’t.
“We told the House before, we don’t have consensus on I-gaming, yet they chose to load it into the host fee bill,” said Sen. Jake Corman, Senate majority leader. “That basically killed it for this session.”
That means PA online gambling is likely getting punted to next year.
Online gambling still on the legislature’s agenda?
In theory, the state legislature is still on the hook to pass legislation that would regulate online gambling.
No one has advanced another way to fund $100 million due to the state budget during the current fiscal year, after a to-be-determined gambling bill was earmarked for the budget. No other gambling measure currently under consideration could generate anywhere near that much revenue for the state.
Any gambling effort is complicated in the short term by the need to also fix the casino host tax that has an impact of more than $140 million to local jurisdictions, if not tackled by the legislature. The Senate wants to deal with that issue on its own, while the House wants to handle all gambling issues at one time.
It’s that dichotomy that has brought any progress on gambling issues to a standstill.
Problems ahead for PA iGaming
Despite the fact that online gambling is still going to be on everyone’s radar in 2017, there are reasons to worry about its possible success.
The Senate’s continued reluctance to deal with online gambling points to problems behind bringing it to a full vote.
Rep. John Payne, who has led the charge for iGaming in the past two years, is retiring after the election. He chairs the House Gaming Oversight Committee. Without his presence, online gambling proponents will have to find a new person in a position of power to advance legislation.
It appears the online gambling watch in PA is going on hiatus for 2016, but it will be renewed once again early next year. And despite the variables working against iGaming, expectations remain high for its eventual passage.