Pennsylvania Legislature Adjourns Without Any Significant Online Gambling Talks Progress

Online gambling legalization talks once again reached a stalemate in the Pennsylvania Legislature after lawmakers adjourned before coming to an agreement on an omnibus gambling bill.

Legislators approved late last month the state’s $32-billion spending plan for the 2017-2018 financial year. They are now in search for adequate revenue sources to fund Pennsylvania’s budget, but have so far failed to come up with a financing plan.

The legalization of iGaming within the state’s borders is part of a larger gambling-related package that, if approved, will expand Pennsylvania’s gaming industry significantly and will hopefully increase tax contributions just as significantly.

The Legislature’s current state of recess could be ended any time as both House and Senate lawmakers are on call, which means that the session could resume within a six-hour notice. This means that they could convene anytime now or leave gambling discussions for the fall.

Online gambling was brought up for discussion last year, as well. While the House approved the legislative effort relatively quickly, the Senate dragged on the matter for weeks and eventually did not vote on it.

Under this year’s gambling package, online gambling will be legalized, making it possible for interested operators to apply for a license and operate online casino games. Taxation of the iGaming services provided to Pennsylvania-based players was among the big issues that arose over the course of discussions. Proposals for different rates emerged in the process. However, people with knowledge of the matter have recently pointed out that lawmakers may have agreed on a 24%-26% rate for online slots and a 16%-20% one for online table games and poker.

Video gaming terminals proved to be the biggest stumbling block in the larger gambling expansion effort. House lawmakers approved last month the addition of up to 40,000 VGTs in bars, restaurants, and truck stops, among other facilities. The move is believed to bring millions in revenue the state needs to close a massive budget gap. However, the Senate and Gov. Tom Wolf opposed the measure.

OnlinePokerReport recently cited multiple resources, according to whom VGTs were removed from the discussion table last week only to be brought back this week and cause a stir in the Legislature.

The Senate previously proposed to swap the VGTs provision for one that would allow for the construction of up to ten satellite casinos in different parts of the state. Pennsylvania’s existing casinos would have the right to apply for a satellite casino license first. Approved operators will have to pay an upfront license fee, in order to be able to run such satellite casinos. As a result, immediate and additional revenue would be contributed to state coffers.

It is quite unclear when legislators will reconvene, but given the fact that the Senate has been pushing for a solution to the budget deficit, it may not take long before gambling discussions are renewed.

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