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After months of hearing from several sources that Pennsylvania online gambling regulation was still on the table, gaming expansion is finally seeing the light of day in the ongoing budget impasse.
In the wake of a House vote that defeated Gov. Tom Wolf’s latest tax plan, Republican and Democratic lawmakers and the governor appear to be ready to add some new topics to the discussion. The budget stalemate has now lasted more than a hundred days since the first artificial deadline to pass a budget expired in July.
After seemingly no progress for months, some flexibility has shown up in negotiations. And, that includes talking about gambling expansion, in the public, and not just as a “possibility” through the media. From the Republican Herald:
The governor said he is not removing any tax options from the negotiating table.
During floor debate, lawmakers of both parties mentioned expanded gambling as a new revenue source.
How seriously anyone is considering online gambling as a possibility is still unknown, but to have it as part of the public debate is clearly a positive sign.
It comes after sources and Rep. Jim Payne said last month that online gambling was a part of behind-the-scenes budget negotiations.
Penn Live’s Charles Thomas tackled the issue of what’s next for budget negotiations in the state. He makes a good point about gambling getting added to the mix late in the game:
Among the streams that at least some – if not all – members of both parties are open to discussion on include: reforms to the state’s monopoly on liquor sales; further expansion of legalized gambling; the much-discussed tax on gas production from the Marcellus Shale; higher taxes on cigarettes; a change in the state’s bank shares tax.
Issues like liquor reform, expanding gambling and even taxing the Marcellus Shale natural gas production are all tough issues with lots of interested stakeholders on which consensus may or may not be reached.
The latter sentence could be the biggest problem with getting an online gambling measure onto the budget agenda. The last time online gambling was spotted in public in Pennsylvania — back in June during a Senate hearing — there was far from a clear consensus on a number of issues surrounding iGaming, from implementation to a tax rate. Casinos didn’t want to commit to an online-gambling-only measure in any expansion talks, and it’s not clear if they’ve moved off that stance.
Of course, it’s possible stakeholders — lawmakers and casinos — have been working on the issue via backchannels. And, obviously, there hasn’t been a great sense of urgency in getting a budget done, so there’s still time to have these discussions and build a consensus.