Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill On the Move Again

by Jim Hall

PennsylvaniaOnline gambling legislation in Pennsylvania has been approved once again by the House, moves back to the Senate for consideration.

For years now, Pennsylvania has been poised to become the 4th state in the US to pass legislation to offer online casino and poker gaming. For years, proponents have watched as legislators have failed to move measures forward that would allow for such gaming to be legalized and regulated within the state. Now, there is a small sliver of hope that such gaming might become a reality as the state House has approved HB 271 and now the Senate will be reviewing the changes made. If the Senate approves the bill, it will move to the desk of the governor for consideration.

Slow Progression

The state of Pennsylvania has been making slow progress when it comes to passing online gaming legislation. The House of Representatives within the state passed a big gaming package this week that includes such expansions as online gambling and daily fantasy sports. The measure passed with a vote of 102 to 89 just two weeks after the state Senate passed their own gaming bill. The House has provided a counter-proposal by making amendments to HB 271.

It seems the two groups cannot come to an agreement as to how online gambling should take place in the state. The main point of contention is the taxes set for operators of such gaming. The Senate had set a rate of 54% on slots and casino table games while the House has changed this rate to a much lower amount of 16%. The upfront licensing fee was changed to $8 million for a single fee. The Senate had 16% set for poker while requiring two licenses by operators, one for casino gaming and one for poker. A license fee was set at $5 million each.

What Do They Agree On?

The bill in the Senate and the one in the House do have points they agree on. Both bills would fix the local share tax problem as well as provide legalization and regulation of daily fantasy sports and online gambling. The state lottery would be allowed to sell their products online and tablet gaming would be authorized at airports in the state.

Another area that does seem to cause concern is video gaming terminals. The House has added an amendment that would allow video gaming terminals, or VGTs, to be added in venues that have a liquor license. As many as 10 such machines would be allowed to be placed at truck stops along with off-track betting parlors. The VGT subject barely made it through the House and the Senate seems even more opposed to such gaming options. So, the VGT argument could actually be a way that the entire measure is killed.

So what happens next? When will the Senate review the bill and the changes made by the House? The Pennsylvania Senate is off until Monday so we know they will not consider the House version of the bill until at least then, if not later. The next step for the bill will be to see a conference committee take place where both bodies of legislation try to work out where they have differences of how things should operate. Basically, the two chambers would work together to create one bill that works for everyone.

It does seem that the VGT issue will not be approved by the Senate and some type of middle ground will need to be reached on this subject and the tax issue before any legislation can move forward within the state.