Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Remains On Roller Coaster Ride

July 5, 2016
Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Remains On Roller Coaster Ride

The fate of a bill that would authorize online gambling in Pennsylvania seemingly changes by the day in recent weeks.

Last week, the possibility of Pennsylvania online poker and casino games took an unprecedented step when an omnibus gaming bill passed the House of Representatives. Gambling is a major part of the revenue package being put forward by House Republicans to fund their spending plan for the state budget.

But in the days since, it’s become apparent that it’s going to be anything but smooth sailing for the gambling expansion legislation.

The latest on gambling and the budget

Things were looking promising for the bill that would allow online gambling, regulate daily fantasy sports and create an expansion of slot machines in the state.

But the optimism that accompanied the affirmative vote in the House was quickly replaced with concern and pessimism, as it became apparent that neither the Senate or Gov. Tom Wolf was enamored with — or at least supportive of — the House gambling bill.

Heading into the weekend, this was the sense of the bill’s future, according to Penn Live:

A second part of the tax and revenue package – the proposed expansion of legal gambling – was said by negotiators to be so far apart Friday that it may have to be finished after the broader tax package is put together.

What’s the source of the gambling opposition?

There are a lot of moving parts in the bill, and there are obviously different parts that aren’t popular with some.

For one, some — including Wolf, have publicly questioned whether the revenue from the gambling expansion is sustainable and is really capable of keeping the budget balanced over the long term. The gambling package is expected to generate more than $200 million in Year One, although a sizable chunk of that would come from one-time fees.

Other issues:

  • There is some opposition to online gambling in the state — most notably from Sands Bethlehem.
  • According to the aforementioned Penn Live story, Sands is also among casinos that are pushing back about the possibility of legislation allowing casinos to open “satellite” locations with more slot machines.
  • A proposal to allow video gaming terminals in taverns and clubs in the state failed in the House, and backers of that proposal could still be smarting. Although that measure was always considered to be an unpopular one should it have reached the Senate.

And those are just the issues that have bubbled to the surface publicly.

What’s next for PA online gambling?

There have been reports over the past week, mostly from GamblingCompliance, that the Senate would come up with its own gambling package.

Will online gambling be a part of that package as well, and does it have a chance to reach the finish line? Stay tuned.

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