Online Gambling Bill to be Voted on This Week in Pennsylvania

by Kyle Miller

Pennsylvania StateThe Pennsylvania Senate is set to vote on online gambling this Wednesday after months of inactivity.

Online gambling enthusiasts have been waiting for some time now to see the option become a reality in the state of Pennsylvania. After the House voted in approval of a bill that would provide the legalization and regulation of online gambling in June, the Senate has taken several months to even think about looking at the legislation. Players are tired of waiting and many legislators want to see the process completed, with online gambling legalized once in for all. Now, it seems that the Senate will be taking a vote on the legislation this Wednesday.

Finally, a Senate Vote

Legislators have been working on seeing the state become involved in online gambling for some time now. Pennsylvania has been set up to become the next state in the US to offer legalized gaming but without passing a bill, nothing can begin. When the budget was passed back in the summer, after months of debate, it included $100 million in funds to be provided from a gambling expansion, including online gambling. However, there was no measure in place to see the industry begin. The House voted to pass a proposal back in June and the Senate then decided they would wait until the fall to vote. The current legislation session will end this week and it seems legislators have waited until the last possible minute to vote on the measure.

A hearing actually took place last week within the House to try and push the Senate to take action. House of Representatives Member John Payne, is a sponsor of the measure and strong supporter of online gaming who was at the hearing to try and show the benefits of the state becoming involved in the industry.

Share Tax Issues

On top of the Senate needing to make a decision on the online gambling legislation, something must also be done on the share tax law. The gambling law of the state says that gambling venues located across the state, except in Nemacolin, Valley Forge and Philadelphia, must pay a local share tax. This will amount to 2% of the total slots revenue or $10 million, which ever amount comes first.

Yet last month, the state Supreme Court decided to rule that the local share tax is unconstitutional. The legislators of the state must now come up with a way to change the law and still provide monies for the local cities and counties who host such casino gaming venues. From last month, lawmakers were given four months to come up with a new plan.

The change now has created a hole of $140 million in annual revenues for local communities. These areas rely on the gaming funds to pay for programs and projects. If no solution is found quickly, the cities will suffer financially as budgets will be strained. The Senate must now look to see if a new gambling bill should be passed and where the money will come from that has been promised from the $100 million set in the budget from months ago.

John Pappas, the Poker Players Alliance Executive Director, stated that a new bill being introduced would result in the state seeing additional tax revenues from operators who are provided with gambling licenses. Pappas believes that passing the legislation will provide consumer protections as players will have an alternative to the unregulated online gambling websites that are a financial risk as well as risk of underage gambling. Pappas pointed out that New Jersey is a perfect example of how online gambling can be of benefit.