Recent chatter from the state legislature makes it sound like online gambling could be legalized in Pennsylvania as soon as this month.
The statehouse has considered passing legislation that would regulate PA online casinos and poker since 2015, and there appears to be an increasingly good chance lawmakers will act before the November elections.
Key senator on board
The latest good news for online gambling came from a key lawmaker on the Senate side.
Sen. Jay Costa, the Democratic leader of the Senate, indicated his willingness to work on a gambling expansion package during the six days that the body is in session this month. (The Senate will meet again starting Oct. 17.)
Reporting from @GamblingComp today says PA Senator Costa now open to doing iGaming along with local share tax soon. That is a BFD -jp
— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) October 14, 2016
The Gambling Compliance story (paywall) indicates that Costa and fellow senators are willing to talk about the gambling expansion, as long as it only deals with two things: fixing the casino host tax struck down by the state Supreme Court and online gambling provisions.
It appears that would include legalization and regulation of daily fantasy sports under the “iGaming” umbrella.
A 50-50 chance?
Before that news came out, Rep. John Payne — who leads the House Gaming Oversight Committee — indicated that there is a chance online gambling is in the cards this month.
According to Online Poker Report, Paine intimated that “the chances of the Senate taking action this year are ’50/50′” on online gambling.
Part of the reason for the urgency of passing an online gambling bill now rather than waiting is that Payne won’t be around to champion it in the future. More from OPR:
In addition to time running out in the session, Payne is retiring at the end of November. That means that a different lawmaker will have to spearhead the efforts next year.
Payne said a “brand new bill” would have to come forward next year. “Everything starts over” on online gaming, he said, but he added that the “groundwork” has been laid this year.
Payne’s committee is scheduled to hold hearings on both the casino host tax and online gambling next week.
Next steps for online gambling?
What would have to happen for online gambling to progress in the PA legislature?
The Senate would have to do one of two things:
- Start acting on a gambling bill that was passed by the House already. It could amend it so that it would only include language about online gambling and the tax fix, or whatever provisions it wishes to see in the final legislation.
- Put forth its own gambling bill.
In both cases, the House would also have to vote on and approve the Senate’s version of the gambling bill.
Either way, time is short for something to occur this year. But lawmakers are talking about the issue, meaning it’s clearly on their radar and could get done sooner rather than later.
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