The topic of internet gambling is staying out of the heated debate surrounding the Pennsylvania budget impasse between Republican legislators and Gov. Tom Wolf, which might be the best thing online gaming proponents in the state could hope for.
No lack of disagreement, but it’s not about gambling
Why is that possibly the case? As the two sides become more entrenched on their positions on other matters, online gambling may look like an easy win for both sides, eventually.
Wednesday — the start of the second week of little progress being made on a budget being passed — was either a “quiet day” or things were “heating up,” depending on who you listened to.
Either way, the end result was nothing being accomplished. That appears to be the status quo as the state has blown past a soft deadline (June 30) to pass a budget while Republicans and Democrats continued to find little common ground.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some of what the two sides don’t agree on as they try to make a dent in a deficit that exceeds $1 billion:
- Taxes: Wolf wants to raise both income taxes and sales taxes, as well as tax Marcellus Shale gas drillers. Republicans want no new taxes.
- Education: Wolf wants more money for education funding, in line with campaign promises he made. Republicans would increase education spending, as well, just by not as much.
- Liquor stores: Republicans want to privatize the state-run liquor store system, while Wolf has vetoed a bill that would have done so.
A television commercial backing Wolf’s budget started airing, as well, which is only likely to make the two sides dig in even more. You can watch that below:
Something they can all agree on?
In the meantime, online gambling has not really been on the table of late. Republicans didn’t send a gambling bill that included iGaming to Wolf, not did they include it in the budget bill.
At the end of the day, online gambling — as an idea — isn’t that controversial in Pennsylvania. Both Republicans and Democrats have introduced bills that would allow for internet gambling, and only one casino opposes the concept. Implementation and tax rates are the major stumbling blocks for passing iGaming regulation, but solving those issues does not appear to be a steep climb.
And what do both Republicans and Wolf want to do? They want revenue to fund expenses in the budget and help to cut down the deficit. Online gambling could fit the bill.
Between licensing fees and taxes, Pennsylvania stands to generate lots of revenue should it legalize online gambling: north of $200 million in year one, with more than that expected in a mature market. That’s a hefty bite out a deficit estimated to be $1.2bn.
Rep. John Payne, chair of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, might know something that the rest of us don’t. According to a report last week, he said online gambling has a ‘pretty good’ chance of getting approved. That comment came despite any visible lack of movement on the issue.
For the prospects of online gambling, that might be the best scenario: to stay off the radar and wait quietly for an opportunity to fill in a gap between the proposals from Wolf and the state’s Republicans.