PA Moves Closer To Legalizing Online Gambling In 2017

Pennsylvania Online Gambling Likely To Find a Place In Gov. Wolf’s Budget

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is about to deliver his annual budget proposal. And it appears that online gambling will have a place in those plans when Wolf’s proposal is released on Tuesday.

Wolf, the budget, and gambling

Wolf’s budget comes at a key point for the commonwealth.

Namely, Wolf and lawmakers in the state are trying to deal with a projected $3 billion shortfall in the budget expected over the next year and a half.

The good news for gambling proponents is that $100 million Wolf and the state legislature promised to the budget from a gaming expansion appears to be intact.

The only problem? That gambling legislation has not actually been passed.

However, most of the revenue realized from that expansion, should it be enacted, would likely come from online gambling given the lack of other viable sources.

How do we know Wolf’s intentions? Sarah Galbally, Wolf’s secretary of policy and planning, and Sen. Pat Browne, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, were doing the rounds with local media in advance of the budget announced. The subject of gambling came up, per reporting from the Morning Call, as well as that $100 million earmarked for the budget:

That same amount is built into next year’s budget, too, Galbally said.

The governor is correct to keep that gaming money in the budget, Browne said.

“We are still banking that,” he said, and without it, the deficit will grow.

Where does the PA legislature stand on iGaming?

Of course, Wolf’s proposal will be just that, a proposal. The Democratic governor will have to find middle ground with the Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

The full scope of Wolf’s budget has been kept close to the vest, so how much common ground the two sides have will be interesting to see.

It does appear that part of that common ground will be gambling, however.

There are at least three different gambling bills that will surface in the statehouse with iGaming in them. And a key lawmaker, Sen. Mario Scavello, has previously said online gambling has the support to pass in his chamber. Meanwhile, the steadily-increasing performance of online casinos in New Jersey, where regulated Internet gambling just helped Atlantic City reverse a decade-long revenue slide, is providing material support and cover for Pennsylvania politicians.

What we will hear from Wolf

Whether the word “gambling” comes out of Wolf’s mouth on Tuesday is unknown.

But it seems clear Wolf is looking for alternative ways of funding the state budget that don’t include standard types of tax increases. From

On Tuesday, he is to deliver his third annual budget proposal, this time pledging not to rely on the kind of broad-based taxes that the Republican-controlled House and Senate have made clear they won’t support.

And from a presser on his budget announcement:

That’s why he has worked to find savings – like centralizing shared services like human resources and information technology, selling property the state owns but doesn’t use, or consolidating pension funds to save millions that used to flow into the pockets of Wall Street financial managers.

Seeing — or hearing — a mention of gambling from Wolf would be yet another positive development for casinos in the state and proponents of iGaming. It would signal that nearly everyone of import in the state is on board with PA online casinos coming to the Keystone State this year.

- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.
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