PA Legislature to Decide on Online Gambling Bill

PA Legislature to Decide on Online Gambling BillThe Pennsylvania legislature is in a bit of a tight spot this week, without a serious plan to cover its multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall and no agreement on the gambling package that could help cover it.

However, the doom and gloom could be upended as early as next week, as the Pennsylvania Senate returns to close out the legislative session on Monday, moving some of these issues (which lawmakers in the upper house have largely kicked down the road for months) to forefront. Time is of the essence, as legislators approved a budget that includes some $250 million in tax revenues from an expanded gambling package that lumps in online gambling. Further lending credence to the theory that change is swiftly forthcoming is a comment from PA State Treasurer Joe Torsella saying he would not authorize short term loans to cover any overages in general fund revenues, breaking an unfortunate and frankly unsustainable practice that’s been going on for years in Harrisburg.

The good news for online gaming activists and enthusiasts alike is that internet gaming – whether we’re talking casino games or online poker – is pretty much assuredly going to feature in any deal struck regarding broader gambling legalization in Pennsylvania. Satellite casinos (a sad reality of the fierce interstate competition between competing casino developers looking to syphon workers and business from their rivals across state lines) and video gaming terminals (which blur the line between slot parlors and other establishments like bars and such) are more controversial considerations. Both of those more complicated pieces appeared to be out of discussion as early as few months ago, but reports coming in from the PA statehouse indicate that the working Senate Republican proposal has provisions for both satellite casinos and video gaming terminals.

Pennsylvania’s Senators long ago drew the line on allowing video gaming terminals, often of the “video lottery” variety to proliferate at drinking establishments, but it seems that a plan favoring a limited rollout of this variety of gambling kiosk is an attempt to find a compromise between opposing viewpoints.

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