Online Gambling Stalled Yet Again in Pennsylvania?

PennsylvaniaPennsylvania was once considered next in line to legalize online gambling, joining only Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware that offer regulated iGaming.

[geolink href=””]Plans to legalize online gambling in the state of Pennsylvania[/geolink] have hit a snag yet again, with lawmakers unable to come to a compromise over the state’s upcoming spending budget. For years, the state has tried to pass iGaming legislation and failed miserably. However, the start of 2017 looked promising for online gambling to finally come to fruition in the state.

Unfortunately, the setbacks only began from there. Issues stemming from the state levy tax problems to some legislators wanting video gaming terminals (VGT’s) and airport gaming along with online gambling options, the expansion efforts have managed to hit delays over and over again. Now, it seems additional complications are in play with a second Philadelphia casino in the mix.

Budget Woes in PA

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania had approved the spending levels for the state budget at $32 million. However, discussions as to how the budget will be paid for have hit a wall, including efforts to attach online gambling legislation into the bill. It seems the already complicated issue has now been further complicated with the discussion of a second casino for Philadelphia taking place.

The state is currently considering a comprehensive gambling expansion bill that would see several changes to the gambling industry of the state. This would include the legalization, regulation and taxation of online casinos, online poker, daily fantasy sports, VGT’s at establishments with liquor licensing and tablet gaming at local airports.

The major issues among these options remains the tax rate for online casinos and VGT’s. The State Senate originally passed legislation that would see a 54% tax rate levied on any online casinos operating in Pennsylvania. Online poker would be taxed at 16%. The twelve land-based casinos in the state currently have a 54% tax rate on slot machines and table games are set at 16%. The House disagrees and wants to see a 16% rate set for taxes on across the board on all online gaming. They also want to see VGT’s allowed.

It was expected that a decision would be made this week but no agreement has been reached on the VGT matter and it seems that there may possible be a consensus on the tax rate problem.

A 2nd Casino on the Horizon is Complicating The Issue More

At the same time, a bill that would create a second casino in the area of Philadelphia has fast become a problem for legislators. In late 2014, regulators approved a proposal to see the Stadium Casino’s Live! Hotel and Casino be created. This casino would be located in South Philadelphia and would be the second gaming venue in the area. SugarHouse Casino is currently the only casino operating in Philadelphia.

Of course, SugarHouse was opposed and claim that Bog Manoukian being interested in the venue is in violation of the state’s one and one-third rule. This rule says that

a majority owner of one casino cannot own over 1/3 of another gaming venue.

Mr. Manoukian currently has 85% ownership of Parx Casino along with his ownership of SugarHouse.

So now you have this problem and the state Supreme Court has asked the Gaming Control Board of the state to fix the ownership problem. On top of that, Representative Scot Petri has created a new bill that would do away with the one and one-third ownership rule, which will only complicate matters between the casino owners and legislators in the state.

With all this craziness, it is anyone’s guess as to what could happen in the coming weeks as this whole situation will undoubtedly hit an impasse – for good or bad is unknown at the moment.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett