This week has seen major movement in regards to gambling legislation in the state of Pennsylvania. Two committees voted to approve H 271 on Tuesday, an omnibus gambling bill that would legalize several areas of gaming expansion for the state including online gambling options. Yesterday, the full state Senate met and discussed the measure, voting 38-12 to see the new bill continue to move forward.
With the vote of approval by the full Senate, the measure became the first online gambling bill to pass though the state Senate. The day before, the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee voted 11-3 in approval of the measure while the Senate Appropriations Committee also approved the bill, 24-2.
H 271 will now move on the House of Representatives and if passed, will move to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk. Changes are possible within the House, especially since a 54% tax rate has been set for online slots and table games. This is the same tax rate that land based gaming venues pay for slots but online operators might not be keen on paying such a high amount in taxes.
The measure places the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in charge of online gambling, giving them the authorization to issue as many as 12 online poker and casino licenses. There will be separate licensing for casino and poker operators, each with a fee of $5 million to be paid. If the land based gaming venues do not claim the licensing, then the state will open up to operators outside the state. One could imagine that the Sands Bethlehem will not be taking part as they have lobbied against online gaming for quite some time. So that’s one license that would be up for grabs.
For now, we will have to see how the House responds. One could imagine they will consider changing the high tax rate on slot gaming but this could see the Senate no longer supporting the measure. Other areas of gaming expansion are also included in the bill and must be considered, so it will be interesting to see what changes, if any, are made and if legislators can come to an agreement to see such options as online gambling come to fruition within the state.
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