A glimmer of hope remains for legalized online gambling coming to Pennsylvania this year, despite state budget discussions falling apart.
State lawmakers still can’t agree on how they are going to pay for the state’s $32 billion budget, leaving legalized and regulated online poker and PA online casinos among the measures on hold until they can.
Paying for the PA budget
The PA House and Senate approved spending levels on the $32 billion budget this past June but failed to make any concrete decisions on how to pay for it.
In September, the House passed a funding bill that included $225 million in tax revenue from gambling expansion measures, including legal and regulated online gambling. However, that bill did not make it through the Senate.
Earlier this month, budget discussions came to a crashing halt once again. This occurred when a plan to tax Marcellus Shale natural gas production and increase the state hotel tax rate got in the way. The House and Senate adjourned without voting on the measures.
The plan is to return Monday, Oct. 16. Immediately after the adjournment, Gov. Tom Wolf floated a plan to borrow against profits from the state-controlled liquor system to balance the budget.
Marcellus Shale tax, online gambling still options
In the interim, the Erie News Now news organization has quoted State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro saying idea of the tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production is still under discussion. Plus, state gaming expansion, including online gambling, is still an option for helping lawmakers fund and balance the budget.
In fact, Bizzarro said he believes both the House and Senate see gaming expansion as part of the equation.
Online gambling legislative research group GamblingCompliance ($) says Gov. Wolf’s plan leaves gambling expansion legislation “in a void.” However, the organization also says work on that bill was ongoing up until early last week and almost complete.
Online gambling bill nearly finalized
GamblingCompliance says the nearly-finalized draft bill included provisions that would have allowed Pennsylvania casinos to offer online gambling. Apparently, online poker revenue would have come with a 20 percent tax and online casino revenue a 26 percent tax.
GamblingCompliance also said more controversial gambling expansion measures are still under development. These include the authorization of video gaming terminals at truck stops and satellite casino locations.
The House and Senate remain adjourned until the middle of the month. No budget financing bill has passed. As a result, the jury is still out on all these issues.
In fact, the only thing certain is that online gambling in Pennsylvania is not dead yet.