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Penn National Gaming CEO Tim Wilmott does not expect an online gambling bill to pass in Pennsylvania during the 2015 legislative session.
Senior Vice President of Public Affairs & Government Relations Eric Schippers led off the discussion of online gambling regulation during the Q&A portion of the call:
“There is a budget stand-off right now in Pennsylvania between the governor and the Republicans. And we’re hoping … maybe at some point, we’re hanging around the hoop for the opportunity that maybe real money internet gaming or another gaming opportunity might come out of the ongoing budget impasse there. So, a lot to be seen what happens in Pennsylvania, but we’re closely monitoring.”
Wilmott immediately followed with his assessment of the situation:
“I think there’s more lawmakers here in Harrisburg that are interested in the revenue potential of all these different options. And I think it’s very difficult to predict. We don’t expect anything happening in ’15, but we’ve been encouraged by the hearings that we’ve participated in, in and around the state of Pennsylvania, that there’s more of an appetite to consider these options than there ever has been.”
From their comments, it sounds as if they believe legislation for this year faces long odds, with the possibility of a bill passing in 2016 or beyond being a more likely scenario.
Pennsylvania has introduced several bills into the state legislature that would regulate online gambling — including one from Republican leadership.
None of those pieces of legislation have found traction during the current budget impasse — now in its third week — between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican legislature.
Penn National has been vocal in its support of an iGaming bill. Schippers called the ability to offer online gambling a “vital tool to enable our industry to continue to evolve” earlier this year.
Earlier this year, Penn National also hired Chris Sheffield, formerly of Betfred, as its head of iGaming.
So one would expect them to be following the issue with unique interest, and for their outlook to skew slightly positive on the prospects for regulated online gambling (if it skews at all).
After a flurry of bills and hearings about online gambling before July, the topic has been largely off the radar this month. That is despite the fact that iGaming could easily provide a great deal of revenue for a state that is trying to erase a deficit of more than a billion dollars.
There have only been a few hints that any progress has or could be made on online gambling recently:
Complicating the matter: differences of opinion on how online gambling would be implemented in Pennsylvania.
One bill in the Senate – SB 900 – calls for a tax rate of 54 percent on iGaming revenue — which would be the highest in the world — while casinos and other lawmakers have lobbied for a rate of 15 percent, a rate reflected in Rep. John Payne’s HB 649.