The state of Pennsylvania has officially put its long-discussed online gaming expansion on hold until the autumn of 2017. Currently, local lawmakers are on their summer break, so they are expected to return in September to resume their discussions on the state’s gambling legislation in terms of online poker and casino games.
Earlier this year both the House and the Senate passed versions of the proposed gambling expansion bill. That is exactly why there were hopes that the bill would after all be included in the state’s budget consideration and talks. As Casino Guardian has previously reported, the discussed gambling expansion could be used to fill in the $2-billion deficit in the Pennsylvania’s budget. The latter has not been passed yet, so some experts see further hopes for online gambling services to be given the green light over the autumn.
For now, the forms of gambling that have been discussed as part of the state’s possible gambling expansion, including online gambling, Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), online lotteries, etc., have been left on hold, despite the fact that such a step seemed as a logical one for the state. At the beginning of June, the situation seemed promising, especially considering the fact that local House granted the gambling expansion bill with approval. Then, a month later, the Pennsylvania legislature was considered to be slowly but surely approaching an agreement on the proposed all-inclusive gaming package.
As explained above, the gambling expansion has been one of the most desired changes in the local gambling legislation. In addition, Pennsylvania legislature has considered the expansion as a way for the local Government to tap the 2017/2018 budget deficit, as the addition of more forms of gambling would bring additional funding to the state. Carrying out the gambling expansion would be a great breakthrough for the state’s gambling industry and everything about it seemed to be right on track, but in the middle of July it became the gambling expansion package reached an impasse.
Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf has been even preparing to declare his approval of the all-inclusive gambling legislation, but prolonged budget talks simply poured cold water on everyone who have been waiting to see the bill turned into law.
One of the hottest issues that have been discussed along with the desired online gambling expansion was the video gaming terminals (VGTs) issue. Due to the fact VGTs have been considered a contradictory matter, their addition to the bill was questionable, until it was revealed that VGTs talks were off the table. Earlier, Pennsylvania House members had insisted that VGTs should be included in the gaming expansion bill of the state, but the local Senate did not allow this part to be included in the proposed piece of legislation.
On the other hand, the $2-billion budget deficit became the reason why local lawmakers were prompted to keep working in order to iron things out. There was much debate on the possible ways for the Pennsylvania Government to guarantee that the budget hole would be filled. Apart from other measures discussed, gambling expansion was considered as a logical way to cover at least one part of that deficit in case that the state’s authorities pass the proposed bill and give online gambling companies the green light to apply for operating licenses and set foot in the market.
Unfortunately, the beginning of August did not see any significant process made on the matter, mainly because the Republicans in Pennsylvania House were unwilling to make a compromise. As a result, the desired gambling expansion of the state remains unfinished for another year. Still, hopes remain that the next session of the local legislature will see state’s officials finally make a compromise to find the right balance between online gambling licensing fees and proposed tax rates.