Pennsylvania views online casino legalization as part of budget fix

  • It is reported that Pennsylvania plans to rely on $200 million generated by as-yet-illegal online gaming
  • But the regulation of online gambling is still up for debate, with no indication of outcome

The state of online casino and wagering laws in Pennsylvania has been a complex and ever-changing situation over the last months. And while the hopes of online casino fans – and operators – have likely veered wildly, it has now been reported that Senate Republicans in the state of Pennsylvania has unveiled a plan to plug the $2 billion hole in its budget.

Pennsylvania online casinos
Above: Pennsylvania State Capitol building

What does this mean for online gambling, though? Well, according to a report from The Associated Press, this plan – which the state’s lawmakers worked into the night to finalize – includes $200 million of new revenue from the still-to-be-launched gaming expansion.

Breaking down the bill

On Wednesday night, Republicans reportedly said that their new budget plan would rely on new taxes on things such as utilities and natural gas drilling, borrowing $1.3 billion against the 1998 multistate agreement with tobacco firms, and most importantly, the online gaming expansion.

This plan is supported by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, and a vote on the new budget plan by the Senate is scheduled for today. It’s a good start for the online gambling expansion package, but it doesn’t end here; there are plenty of hurdles to be faced along the journey to the lawful regulation of online casinos in the state.

Some of these include the fact that the package itself – which, alongside online wagering, would introduce several new satellite casinos, daily fantasy sports, and state-regulated lotteries – is still to be passed by the Senate, and it is a long way from finalization and legalization. Currently, as it has been for many weeks now, it is stuck in debate between Senate leaders and the House.

Also subject to debate is the potential legalization of video gaming terminals in taverns across Pennsylvania – but this issue is far from being a priority for the Senate, who are refusing to pass the bill given to them by the House.

At this point, the best-case scenario is thought to be both sides agreeing on the revenue plan package and that the online bettingexpansion package is included within it. Along these lines, many expect legalization to come in the fall.

Another twist in the tale

This isn’t the first time that the state of Pennsylvania has come agonizingly close to legalizing online casinos; the same thing happened this time last year.

Then, the budget plan expected to bring in $100 million from betting – which, this year, has doubled – but the package failed to be passed in the fall. This year, however, online gambling and the gaming expansion as a whole seem to have been on the agenda much more consistently throughout the debating and drafting period.

The state’s failure to balance the budget will result in a worsened credit rating for Pennsylvania, which is clearly something that lawmakers are keen to avoid.

Jake Corman, the Senate Majority Leader, has reportedly said that the bill has been debated, negotiated, and that it is almost at the “finish line.” He said that it awaits the House’s final decision before putting the bill before the governor.

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