Online Gambling Prospects Still Look Good for Pennsylvania

by Jim Hall

PennsylvaniaSenate republicans have a plan to fill the $2 billion gap within the state budget that will include online gambling.

It seems like the state of Pennsylvania is taking forever to pass legislation in regards to online gambling. For years, the state has been the next in line to pass a bill allowing online casino and poker game play for real money but something always stands in the way. Just recently, issues with gaming expansion has led to a delay in passing legislation that would put regulations in place for iGaming in the state. This week, the senate republicans of the state have created an official plan to meet the $2 billion state budget gap with online gambling in the mix of solutions.

$200 Million from Gaming Expansion

Although the gaming expansion plans have yet to be passed in the state, the senate has created a plan for the state budget gap to include $200 million in new revenues from the gaming industry. Any package that would include this much money for the budget would have to have online gaming in the mix to be able to generate the large amount.

The new plan by republicans mainly relies on new taxes, borrowing against a settlement with tobacco companies (one that involves several states) and the gaming expansion. Governor Tom Wolf is in support of the plan and a vote on the revenue package should take place sometime soon. With gaming included this is good news. However, proponents of online gaming cannot be truly happy until we see a bill passed into law allowing online casino poker game play to take place.

Hurdles to Pass

With the state senate including gaming in the budget, it is good news. However, there is bad news as well. There are still hurdles to pass when it comes to see online gaming coming to fruition for Pennsylvania. The gaming package will have to be finalized and passed. The leaders of the House and Senate have been debating this package for some time and the package has been stuck in the Senate for weeks now.

The House still seems to want to pass video gaming terminal legislation which is something the Senate is not on board with. It is also unclear as to if the House will agree to the revenue plan, including the gaming portion. So essentially, many things still need to come together in order for online gaming to finally come to pass in the state.

It seems the same old song and dance is at play in the state. In 2016, Governor Wolf and the House and Senate came to an agreement on revenue with $100 million set to come from gaming and online gaming expansions. A gaming package was supposed to pass last fall but never did.

For 2017, it seemed as though things were a bit different. Online gaming has been on the table since the start of the year and negotiations have continued. If the state fails to balance a budget this year, they will face a downgraded credit rating which is something that lawmakers do not want to see happen.

If the budget is not balanced, government spending could be froze, with schools and counties affected that offer social service programing. Close to $600 million in state aid to local colleges and universities would also be at risk.

The state needs to expand on gaming in order to be successful. We shall see in the coming days and weeks if lawmakers can come to some common ground and pass a budget and gaming package that will be of benefit to the state or if Pennsylvania will remain close, yet so far from seeing any changes to their gaming industry.