PA Online Gambling Bill Rumored to get CPR Next Month

PennsylvaniaAccording to an article in the Reading Eagle, Pennsylvania´s online gambling bill will be brought back to life for consideration by the Assembly next month.

Some things move so slowly in Pennsylvania it would be understandable in you believed they were dead. Take online gambling legislation for example. John Payne´s proposals to regulate online gambling in Pennsylvania (HB 649) first saw the light of day in February 2015. After gathering dust for nine months, the proposals were passed by the [geolink href=””]House Gaming Oversight Committee[/geolink] last November and tabled for a hearing in the Assembly in December.

After four months of inactivity, the Bill was removed from the table in March. Most things that remain inactive for four months have Do Not Resuscitate orders placed around their necks and visit the great bill depository in the sky. However, according to an article in the Reading Eagle (Reading the city in Berks County, rather than a feathered animal capable of reading), HB 649 is scheduled to receive CPR next month for a hearing before the full Assembly.

Resuscitation of HB649 Not Entirely a Surprise

Although Pennsylvania´s online gambling bill has failed to make the headlines so far this year, there has been some movement going on behind the scenes. The House Gaming Oversight Committee has held a series of hearings to consider how Pennsylvania´s brick-and-mortar casinos can remain competitive against gambling expansion in neighboring states. Although the primary concern for casinos was the budget proposal to tax promotional credits, online gambling did at least get a mention.

More of a red rag to John Payne is the publication of a study suggesting that online gambling in Pennsylvania would only have a positive effect in the short term. The State University of New York´s “State Revenues from Gambling: Short-Term Relief, Long-Term Disappointment” believes revenues from gambling will decline as competition in neighboring states increases and concludes that any short-term relief from any expansion of gambling is not sustainable.

“I Guess they Have Never Heard of Las Vegas”

Asked for his comments on the report´s conclusion by the Morning Call, John Payne retorted I guess they have never heard of Las Vegas. Payne went onto explain that his proposals address the fact that people are already gambling online and that the revenues from regulating and taxing online gambling would help to fill the holes in Pennsylvania´s budget. I hope they didn´t waste too much taxpayer money on that study he concluded.

The report clearly upset Payne, and maybe this was the motivation he needed to resuscitate his proposals for online gambling in Pennsylvania – although the driving force behind the goal still appears to be filling a hole in the state budget. This contradicts what Payne told last year when he said that the tax revenues generated by online gambling would be used for the structural deficit in the two state public pension systems.

Still Opposition to the Proposals to Overcome

Whether the proposals for online gambling in Pennsylvania are presented to the Assembly next month or not, there is plenty of opposition to the Bill as it stands in its current format. Most casinos are in favor of online gambling and the introduction of gaming machines at airports – although some potential operators are a bit wary of the fees and taxes they will asked to pay on their Gross Gaming Revenues.

More of a sticking point are the proposals to allow online gambling terminals in off-track betting parlors and Virtual Gaming Machines in bars, restaurants and truck stops. These proposals do not have the support of Category 2 and Category 3 casinos nor – importantly – the support of the Senate. Last December, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman made it clear in an [geolink href=””]interview with NBC Philadelphia[/geolink] that online gambling in Pennsylvania won´t happen due to a lack of support for an expansion of gambling.

Will that be another red rag to John Payne? Will the murky waters of DFS legislation prevent any further progress of online gambling legislation? Will there be any relaxing of the opposition to HB 649? Or, will the proposals for regulated online gambling in Pennsylvania finally be allowed to rest in peace?

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett