Meeting Set for First Week of January to Discuss PA Gaming Law

by Jim Hall

Senator Kim Ward calls January meeting to discuss casino gambling law.

2017 will be a year that the casino industry of Pennsylvania will be considered to the tiniest detail. Lawmakers are trying to get more money for public coffers and casinos want to see expansions allowed within the gaming industry. Also on the table is the fact that the $100 million from online gambling towards the state budget must be considered since legislation has yet to pass on the matter and the state tax issue for gaming venues has yet to be repaired. All of these issues and most likely more will be discussed as the state begins a new legislative session.

Meeting Set

Senator Kim WardA meeting has been set for January 3rd by Senator Kim Ward as discussions need to be made in regards to the gambling law and industry as a whole. Ward has summoned officials from the twelve casinos of the state to come to Harrisburg for the meeting. This will be the same day that lawmakers will be sworn in for the new legislative session for two years. Changes have to be made to the law in regards to gambling and Ward feels the work needs to begin as soon as possible. With the announcement of the meeting, Ward said that the days of doing nothing are over at this point.

Steadily Moving Into Top Position

In a decade’s time, the commercial casino industry of Pennsylvania has emerged as the number two position in consumer spending and the number one spot for tax revenues based on information provided by the American Gaming Association.

A main issue of contention to keep this positioning is a provision that was struck down in September by the State Supreme Court. Casinos were previously required to pay $10 million to host communities or 2% of their slot gaming revenues, whichever amount was larger. Well, most gaming venues had to pay the $10 million amount and felt it unfair. The court left a delay of 120 days so that the lawmakers of the state can make changes that are deemed constitutional. This leaves only until late January for changes to be made.

Lawmakers have yet to be able to come to an agreement on how to replace the tax. A bill was passed in the Senate back in October that would have created a six month replacement but this bill died in the House. In the last fiscal year, as much as $141 million was paid in slots revenues to the counties and municipalities based on info from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. This money is relied upon by host communities to pay for police, firemen, education programs and more. Without the money, many towns and counties will not be able to meet their budgets.

Thankfully, many casinos have agreed to pay the money which will help but this is not a permanent solution. The first quarterly payment is not due until mid-April so there is still time to make some type of agreement.

Lawmakers also cannot seem to agree on how casino gambling should be expanded. Some are in favor of online gambling options while others want to see video lottery terminals added to fraternal clubs and bars. The disagreements on how and what should be offered is only hurting the state’s ability to bring in much needed funds to meet the budget as well as stay competitive with neighboring states.

It will be interesting to see just what will happen in the January meeting and if any headway will be made in regards to all the issues that the state is currently facing in regards to the gaming industry.