Pennsylvania iGaming Legislation Stalls

pennsylvania_state_sealWhen the House Republicans of Pennsylvania added HB 649 to the budget efforts, it seems online gaming was moving forward in the state. The bill, created by Representative John Payne, could be used to help the budget deficit, without raising taxes in the state. However, disagreements between the Republican-controlled Senate and the House GOP majority have led to the budget deal failing within the state, at least for now.

Pennsylvania lawmakers have yet to come to a consensus for the state budget package, which is six months overdue. Recently, the Senate GOP had signed off on a $3.8 billion spending package for the state, which had support by Governor Tom Wolf. This package included $350 million in additional aid for school systems with a tax increase of $1.2 billion.

The plan was rejected by the House Republicans as they felt it more expensive than needed to be and decided to introduce their own. This package proposed $30.3 billion in budget spending. A $1 per cigarette pack tax increase plus online gambling would help to pay for the budget.

It was believed that HB 649 would introduce the state to the online gambling industry and was supposed to see a vote last week. However, the vote did not take place. The bill was changed to allow video gaming terminals to be offered by private establishments. The amendment was rejected by casino operators who feel that the expansion would threaten their businesses.

Supporters of iGambling believe that Payne’s bill would help to increase the revenues of the government without creating a higher tax burden. The government would be given immediate cash by way of licensing fees from casino operators who wish to offer online gaming, totaling as much as $10 million each. As much as $120 million could potentially be earned within the first year that online gambling is in operation, based on estimates by Payne’s research.

The budget standoff, having taken several months, has affected the school system and social services within the state. The social sector have been forced to lay off employees due to state funding issues and the school district of Philadelphia has been forced to borrow a staggering $525 million. Schools may very well be forced to either borrow more money or shut down if a consensus cannot be reached within the state budget.

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