Movement for PA gambling issues?
Sen. Kim Ward — who chairs the Senate’s Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee — is getting an early start on gambling issues when the legislature reconvenes.
Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, has summoned representatives of the state’s 12 casinos to Harrisburg for a closed-door meeting in the Capitol on Jan. 3, the day lawmakers are sworn in for the new two-year legislative session.
“The days of doing nothing are over at this point,” Ward said.
The biggest issue in front of the PA legislature is a casino tax that the state Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional. However, a wide range of other gambling reforms and expansions are also on lawmakers’ radar.
PA gambling action soon, but not in 2016
The news of early action in the statehouse’s next session comes after the House and Senate could not see eye to eye on gambling issues at the tail end of 2016.
The Senate passed a standalone bill fixing the casino tax that benefits jurisdictions hosting casinos. Meanwhile, the House amended the Senate’s tax fix bill with gambling expansions that included the authorization of PA online casinos. The Senate refused to act on the amended House version.
Also part of the equation: The state government has promised $100 million to the state budget from a gambling expansion that has not yet passed. Since the state budget was passed earlier this year, the state has been generating far less revenue than predicted.
What’s next for PA gambling issues?
The meeting in Harrisburg is a good sign for anyone wanting to see progress on gambling matters in the state.
But many of the issues that were problematic in 2016 will persist into 2017. The meeting will likely seek to set the stage for what casinos and lawmakers can live with on both the tax issue and other gaming provisions.
One senator — Robert Tomlinson — has recommended that the tax fix continue to be considered independently of other measures like online gambling, against the House’s desires and actions to date.
What will happen in 2017 for PA casinos? That remains to be seen. But it’s clear that the discussion is not going away silently.