iGaming Re-Emerges as Hot Legislative Topic in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania legislators have not been wasting time in reviving efforts for the legalization of online gambling. It was during the very first week of the new year that a State Senator published a memorandum to notify that a new gambling expansion bill is to be presented anytime soon, one that would include iGaming provisions, among many others.

Sen. Jay Costa explained that his legislative piece will be based on HB 1887, a bill that was passed by the Pennsylvania House in the final quarter of 2016. However, the proposed legislation did not make it through the Senate, as it contained gambling expansion provisions that did not suit Senate Senators.

Similarly to HB 1887, Sen. Costa’s legislative piece will be concerned with an overall gambling expansion in the state. It will call for the legalization and regulation of online gambling and daily fantasy sports. If the bill is introduced and eventually passes the state Legislature, it will also authorize the Pennsylvania lottery to provide lottery games online.

An important provision to be somewhat replicated from HB 1887 will be one offering a fix to a tax issue that emerged last year. In 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court deemed a tax law on revenue sharing agreements between gambling venues and host communities unconstitutional. It explained its decision with the fact that payments different casinos made were ultimately disproportionate.

The Supreme Court ruling left host communities without important tax revenue and gave Legislatures up until early January 2017 to find a proper solution to the problem. HB 1887 offered such a solution, one that was believed to be so effective that it could have been turned into a permanent one. As mentioned above, the state House favored the proposed legislation.

Although the Senate reviewed the bill in the last days of last year’s legislative session, it was not particularly happy about the gambling expansion measures attached to it.

Sen. Costa has said in his memorandum that his legislation will aim at boosting significantly state coffers with much-needed tax revenue. For instance, if online gambling is legalized, local casinos will have to pay a $10-million license fee in order to be able to provide such options to their customers. iGaming technology providers will be charged a $5-million fee. Previous bills called for $8-million and $2-million fees for operators and technology vendors, respectively.

Sen. Costa bill is currently in the making and it is still unknown when exactly it will be introduced to the Legislature. In any case, he will certainly try to make the best use possible out of the momentum HB 1887 gained last year.

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