The Pennsylvania Online Gambling Watch Resumes As Senate Reconvenes

August 29, 2016
The Pennsylvania Online Gambling Watch Resumes As Senate Reconvenes

Online poker in California appears to be on life support or nearly dead for 2016.

But online gambling and poker in Pennsylvania is alive and kicking; the topic has just been on hiatus while the legislature has been on break for the summer.

When the PA statehouse returns to action, where does online gambling stand?

The PA legislature is coming back

The Pennsylvania General Assembly goes back to work on Tuesday. More accurately, the Senate returns on that day, while the House of Representatives is off until Sept. 19.

For onlookers following online gambling developments in the state, the former is more important. After all, the House already passed legislation that called for the legalization and regulation of online gambling and poker..

And while the Senate has tackled the subject of online gambling in the past, that happened back in 2015. For the immediate future of online gambling in the commonwealth, the Senate needs to take up the issue in committee and as a whole.

Has anything changed for PA online gambling?

Earlier in the summer, the Senate and House both agreed to a budget plan that included $100 million in revenue from gambling, most of it coming from the inclusion of online gambling licensing fees. At the time, they agreed to pass actual legislation that would generate that revenue in the fall.

Since the budget deal was hammered out, there’s been relatively little chatter about online gambling or the gambling expansion package. (A pair of representatives in the state addressed points for and against online gambling here.)

A recently enacted increased tax on table games in land-based casinos accounts for just a portion of the added revenue from gambling, making it appear online gambling is not in any danger of being axed from the budget.

Additionally, no one has put forward an alternative to the online gambling revenue.

So the sense is nothing has changed materially for online gambling in recent months.

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What PA bill are we looking for, and when?

The bill with online gambling that the House passed was HB 2150, which was an amended bill on daily fantasy sports that tacked on a variety of gambling measures.

However, it’s not certain that will be the vehicle that ends up housing online gambling. (After all, online gambling used to be in HB 649, once upon a time, before the gambling expansion was moved to the new bill.)

But whatever bill ends up being considered by the Senate, it will likely have a lot of the language included in 2150.

“When?” is a more complicated question. Realistically, it could pop up at any time, but there’s no guarantee it will happen in the coming months. So online gambling proponents may have to be patient.

Will PA online gambling finally pass?

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings, of course, but Pennsylvania online gambling still appears to be a huge favorite to pass this fall.

That dynamic could change quickly, of course, when lawmakers start talking about it. Video gaming terminals at  taverns and clubs have derailed progress in the past.

There’s still an “if” component, as well. While right now there’s no sense that the legislature wants to mess with funding for the budget, that could still happen.

If you were placing bets on an online gambling bill getting out of the legislature, however, the odds would be on passage of such a provision.

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