PA Legislators May Soon Be Working On Gambling Legislation

by Jim Hall

The Pennsylvania Senate is set to meet in a few days, will movement be made on online gambling legislation in the meantime?

The Pennsylvania State Senate currently has an omnibus gaming reform bill sitting and waiting on something to happen. The state senate will be back on the 26th of September but in just three days’ time, the bill will only be able to be reviewed in October is not passed. Time may soon run out for the measure to be considered and moved forward towards being passed into law.

What’s Going On?

Rosita YoungbloodThe bill has already passed through the state House of Representatives and the Senate wanted to wait until the fall to continue to review the measure. If the bill is not passed this week, the only other time this year the measure can be considered is from the 17th to the 19th of October and the 24th to the 26th of the same month. The bill was passed by the House as it was included in the funding estimates for the state budget.

If the measure is not passed, the bill could be further delayed and the option to be passed in 2017 may be complicated. Rosita Youngblood is a Representative for the state and sponsor of the bill, HB 2150. Youngblood is pro online gambling in the state and has been trying for some time to see her state begin to move closer to legalizing online gambling options.

Online Poker Report actually talked to Youngblood, to get her opinion on the process of legalizing the activity in the state. When asked about the holdup, possible points of contention within the measure, Youngblood responded that the Senate still needs to work out issues within the bill that members feel are a problem including slot machines at OTBs and other ancillary facilities. The Gaming Control Board also has requested technical changes. The Representative did state that she feels the bill will be considered within the last days of the legislative session.

How Important Is Passage This Year?

Youngblood was also asked how important is it that the measure pass in 2016. She responded that with only 12 voting days remaining until the general election this November, there is a tight time frame in which to see the measure pass. If something is not passed this fall, then taxpayers will be required to help come up with the $100 million that was agreed upon to come from gaming in regards to the state budget. DFS is also in the mix and something that players are taking part in without regulations. The new attorney general has not made clear their stance on DFS so this is another factor to consider.

Without passing the bill this year, new obstacles could be in place for 2017. The state will see the Gaming chairman in the House retiring so two new people will be in the committee that is in charge of overseeing gaming policy in the House. A new attorney general is also in the mix. In 2017, new legislation could be drafted and introduced that might be different from this current legislation that is being considered. The unknown variables could set the state back even more than they already are.

Youngblood feels that there is no reason not to pass legislation this year. The current members of the House and Senate vetted the issue and leaders in the four caucuses as well as the governor have agreed to the $100 million in revenues that will be created from online gaming via fees operators must pay as well as taxes.

We shall see in the coming days if any movement is made in the state of Pennsylvania or if the measure will be pushed back yet again, to this October.