The contentious part of the Pennsylvania gambling expansion debate — video gaming terminals in private clubs and terminals — may not be dead yet.
Online gambling, paying for the budget
An op-ed at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette talked about the revenue package that is funding increases in the PA state budget. That budget, writer Brian O’Neill points out, is largely funded by new sin taxes.
That includes $100 million from a yet-to-be-passed gambling expansion that is supposed to authorize Pennsylvania online casinos.
Online gambling regulation — namely licensing fees and taxes — are expected to make up a huge chunk of that figure.
What else will be in the gambling package?
The part of the package that seems to be up in the air right now is a possible expansion of slot machines at off-track betting parlors.
But VGTs at taverns may not be entirely out of the mix, despite the fact that a House-passed gambling package did not include them. The inclusion of VGTs nearly scuttled the gambling package in the House. Eventually, the Senate passed on considering a gaming bill until the fall, when the legislature reconvenes.
The PPG story notes that Reps. Mark Mustio and Paul Costa are still pushing for VGTs in western PA:
“The casinos have such a powerful, powerful, powerful lobby,” Mr. Mustio said, and they don’t want competition. Meantime, they seem to be doing quite well despite tens of thousands of video poker machines already paying off illegally in taverns across the state.
And in case you think that’s just rhetoric, lobbyists are not done with the VGT issue:
“I think the casinos should just get over it,” Amy Christie, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, said. “Pennsylvania taxpayers are the ones who need the assistance.”
The state needs money and “we’re coming back stronger than ever in the fall,” Ms. Christie said.
Will VGTs endanger online gambling again?
The state appears very likely to pass some sort of gambling legislation this fall.
Will the bill include online gambling? That seems like a near certainty.
Will VGTs be in the mix? Seeing as it didn’t have support in the House — and it always appeared to be a potential deal-breaker in the Senate — it seems unlikely.
But even if VGTs get back in the mix, it doesn’t seem like it has a chance to scuttle online gambling efforts like they did in recent months. A gambling bill is going to happen.
But the reentry of VGTs into the debate could mean effort to pass a gambling expansion in PA and online gambling could be slowed.
In some ways, though, VGTs are very similar to online gambling — both are already going on in Pennsylvania whether they are regulated and taxed or not.