New Bill Resumes Attempt To Legalize Online Gaming In Pennsylvania

February 21, 2017 by Natalie Whitehead

pennsylvaniaLawmakers in Pennsylvania are making a renewed attempt to clear the internet gaming bill this year. A bipartisan bill that seeks to legalize gaming in the state is expected to be soon introduced and will aim to get legislative approval before June 30, which is the deadline for funding the state’s budget

Last year a comprehensive gaming expansion bill that included online gaming had been passed by the House twice but the Senate showed no interest in clearing it. The legislation requires clearance by June 30 in order avoid a budget shortfall of $100 million, which is the revenue earmarked to be received from online gaming.

The latest bill is being introduced by Sen. Jay Costa and his Republican counterpart Sen. Kim Ward who are hoping to get approval from Senate lawmakers after a thorough discussion.

In a statement Costa said,

I think the resistance was a lot of folks not happy with the scope of what the House was trying to get done. The idea was since we had until June 30 to collect the $100 million needed from iGaming, there was no need to pass for the sake of passing until we had the opportunity for a full-blown conversation. If we did it, we wanted to do it right — and that's what we're trying to do.

The difference between the latest version and the last year’s bill is that it proposes a higher tax rate of 25 percent and has included internet lottery sales. The bill has also omitted video gaming terminals that operate away from casinos, which has been a controversial addition last year.

Costa has defended the relatively high rate of taxation stating that the industry would be able to absorb the cost and still be successful. He pointed out that several people had stated that 55 percent tax on slot machines wouldn’t be accepted but it was. However Costa admitted that in the end the final rate would need to be negotiated and said that it would be finalized over discussions in the next few months.

Rep. George Dunbar has taken the lead in authoring a similar bill for the House. Costa said that he expected the gaming expansion package legislation to be cleared by April. Costa also highlighted that the Senate was closely monitoring the situation with respect to reinterpretation of the Wire Act, referring to the recent statements of the new attorney general Jeff Sessions who has said that the reinterpretation by the Obama administration had shocked him. A reversal in its interpretation is likely to threaten the legality of online gaming.