Senate Approves Gambling Bill in Pennsylvania

by Jim Hall

The Pennsylvania Senate has approved a bill that will see gambling expanded in the state, including online gambling activities.

All week we have stayed on top of the latest developments when it comes to a gambling expansion for Pennsylvania. First, two committees in the Senate passed H 271, a bill that would see the state expand gaming in several areas, including online options. Once the bill passed within the two committees, it moved on to a full senate vote. Now, it seems the Senate has approved the measure and the bill now goes back to the House to be reviewed as amendments have been included.

Latest Victory

All week, the gambling industry of the state have seen small victories. The latest came when the State Senate decided to approved the measure 38 to 12. The bill includes several areas of gaming, such as a fix to the casino share tax and how such funds should be distributed. The bill will now head to the House where additional changes can be made.

It is believed that the House will change a tax area of the bill in regards to online gaming. Currently, land based gaming venues of the state pay 54% in taxes on slot and table games. The online operations would also have this same tax amount. This is considered quite high and it would not be surprising if the House decides to change the rate to a smaller percentage.

Casino Share Tax

One reason the bill may be moving forward so quickly is due to the local share assessment casino tax. Lawmakers had until today to come up with a solution to ensure that local municipalities are paid a percentage from the casinos in the host areas. Back in September, the local share tax was ruled as unconstitutional and lawmakers have been trying for months to find a solution to the matter.

Senator Dan Laughlin voted YES for H 271 stating that the measure establishes a fee structure that is considered to be uniform for each casino regardless of the net revenues each year and should be able to meet the conditions that were set by the court back in September in regards to the tax.

Will the Bill Change in the House?

Ryan BizzarroNow that the House is set to review the measure, further amendments can be made. However, we do not know when the bill be reviewed by the House and what exactly will take place. Representative Pat Harkins and Representative Ryan Bizzarro have decided that they will be voting for the measure in its current state and choose to see the bill move forward.

According to Bizzarro, he plans on endorsing the measure as it addresses the local share options and believes the changes are critical to the community at large. If the deadline is missed, areas of the state will not suffer initially as payments are not due for a few months. In many cases, the gaming venues have decided to continue with payments despite the fact that the law has been voided.

Casinos that have decided to continue with payments want to help their community. They see that the money goes towards programs that help the locals, including police and education programs. However, some venues are not helping their fellow neighbors, including the Sands Bethlehem. The Sands venue has no plans to make payments until they legally told to do so. This does make the operator look bad in the eyes of the community but they seemingly are not bothered by appearances it seems.