Will Pennsylvania’s Gambling Expansion Ever Happen?

by Jim Hall

PennsylvaniaQuestions still surround the potential gambling expansion for Pennsylvania with many wondering if legislation will ever pass this year.

The state of Pennsylvania has been on the radar for some time as the next state that will be passing legislation to offer online gambling as well as other areas of gambling in the state as part of an expansion. Lawmakers have been back and forth with legislation, with the House wanting to see certain things take place while the Senate is interested in other avenues of expanding the gaming industry. Will the state ever pass expansion plans? What will be allowed to take place in the state as far as gambling is concerned?

VGT Issue

The main issue the state faces presently is video gaming terminals, or VGTs. A budget stalemate has taken place for more than a week as the House and Senate cannot come to agreement on this issue. According to Pennlive, both chambers are divided in regards to plans for video gaming terminal legalization.

The House wants to see VGTs added to bars, private clubs and restaurants in the state while the Senate does not. The 2017-18 state budget needs to reach $32 million and those in favor of VGTs feel this is a way that the state can see some of the funds provided for this massive budget.

The Senate has been pushing to see new revenues for the fiscal year in the $450,000,000 to $550,000,000 range and want to see the budget balance created from fund transfers and one-time moves. The House wants to use gambling expansion as the main form of budget funding. Lawmaker have discussed seeing satellite casinos expand as well as legalize online casino games.

Legislation has went back and forth for many weeks now as the House will approve a measure only to see the Senate make changes and vice versa. It seems this week might be a turning point as Senator Jay Costa says a vote on the matter is imminent.

 Vote on the Agenda

Reportedly, this week will signify a vote on the gaming package currently under consideration in the Senate committee. If the bill passes within the committee it will move on to a full vote within the State Senate. If passed, we could then see online gambling finally come to fruition within the state. Costa was on Twitter last night and was providing insight into the matter based on questions asked by the public. He revealed that a decision should be made this week, most likely by mid-week, to see if the legislation will move forward.

Lawmakers of the state are also considering other options for new revenues aside from the gambling expansion options. On top of changes to the gambling industry, lawmakers are looking to remove the state sales tax exemption on bills for basic cable TV as well as apply the existing gross receipts tax on specific public utilities and natural gas services to see revenues earned.

However, there are still those who are opposed to tax changes and are willing to fight on the matter. Some members of legislature actually hate the idea of adding in new taxes and have yet to test if they have support for tax increase in their caucus.

So, we should see this week just what will happen in Pennsylvania in regards to the budget and how/if online gambling will be included as well as other extensions within the gambling industry. It will be interesting to see the decision this week and hopefully the vote will signify that the state is heading in the direction of offering online poker and casino gaming.