Online gambling in October?
The state Senate has just six days left in 2016 to attempt to pass a gambling expansion package that the state government promised to pass this summer, as part of the plan to finance the current fiscal year’s budget. The $100 million earmarked for the budget would largely come from the legalization of online gambling in the state.
The House already passed its version of a gambling bill, complete with regulation for iGaming and daily fantasy sports.
The Senate met briefly in September but never tackled gambling at all. It returns from hiatus for planned sessions October 17-19 and 24-26. Those are the last days before the November elections that the Senate will meet, unless it decides to extend the brief session.
Will the Senate actually do anything on gambling?
At one point, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the statehouse would act on gambling this year when it was included in the budget. Those beliefs were eventually replaced with cynicism, as it started to become clear the Senate did not agree on the moving parts in the larger gambling package. Disagreement appears to have little to do with the authorization of online gambling, however.
One thing has changed recently, however. A state Supreme Court ruling drastically reduced the amount of money that the state is taking in via casino taxes, money that was earmarked for jurisdictions that host casinos. The legislature is likely going to act on that issue, and may consider the wider gambling expansion in tandem.
Rep. John Payne, who has championed the online gambling effort, puts the odds of the Senate acting soon at about a coin flip.
Payne said on Thursday, Oct. 13 that he’s still “doing everything I can” to get online casino gaming, as well as daily fantasy sports, regulated in his state. However, he said he’s a “realist” and at this stage in the game, the chances of the Senate taking action this year are “50/50.”
If nothing happens this month, any effort would have to wait until 2017. Payne told OPR that the groundwork that has been laid in the past two years should help online gambling’s chances in the future.
Hearing will also be held
Payne’s House Gaming Oversight Committee will hold a hearing next week that will examine the regulation of online gambling and DFS. That comes after a similar hearing planned for September was canceled.
That hearing may be designed to just bring attention to the issue, and spur the Senate to act. Whether it will do so this month remains to be seen.