PA Gaming Hearing To Largely Focus On Crucial Local Share Tax Issue

Online Gambling Will Take A Backseat At Today’s Pennsylvania Gaming Reform Hearing

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On March 28, the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee will hold its second hearing of the year to discuss a number of gaming reforms the state is considering.

The first gaming hearing of 2017, held on March 7, was a joint hearing of the House Gaming Oversight Committee and the Senate CERD Committee. It focused almost exclusively on online gambling.

This time around the hearing is a solo project by the House Gaming Oversight Committee. According to the summary on the Legislature’s committee page, the hearing will be a “public hearing on gaming expansion, local share assessment, and casino competitiveness.”

The hearing will take place away from Harrisburg, in Erie, Pennsylvania, near the Presque Isle Casino. Unfortunately it will not be live streamed.

However, the topic most of us are interested in, online gambling, is supposed to be on the back burner.

Online gambling will not be the focal point this time

Instead of online gambling, Tuesday’s hearing will focus on the other gaming reforms that have been proposed. From the looks of it, the hearing will have a heavy emphasis on the local share tax proposal the state is considering. This is evidenced by the extensive speaker list posted in local press.

The speaker list includes no fewer than 14 local Erie businesspeople and officials:

  • Kathy Dahlkemper, Erie County Executive
  • Perry Wood, executive director of Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority
  • Nancy Agostine, Summit Township supervisor
  • Jay Breneman, Erie County councilman
  • John Buchna, executive director of the Erie Downtown Partnership
  • Michael Victor, president of Mercyhurst University
  • Mike Batchelor, president of the Erie Community Foundation
  • William Garvey, president of the Jefferson Educational Society
  • Shawnta Pulliam, founder of Nurturing Hearts
  • Matt Harris, president of Character: Be About It
  • Casey Wells, Erie Events’ executive director
  • Liz Wilson, director of marketing and communications for Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania
  • Danny Jones, chief executive of the Greater Erie Community Action Committee
  • Shawn Waskiewicz, executive director of the Flagship Niagara League

PA online gambling unlikely without solution to local tax share issue

Even though online gambling isn’t on the agenda, it’s still likely to come up. Online gambling is part of the larger gaming reform package the state is trying to pass.

To what extent it will be discussed is anyone’s guess, but don’t be surprised if it’s only mentioned in passing.

Still, solving the local share tax is an important step forward for online gambling legalization.

The state – for better or worse – has married several gaming reforms together. Even if lawmakers reach a consensus on online gambling, they won’t pass a bill until they reach an agreement on the local tax share and other key issues.

The local share tax issue sprang into being late in the 2016 session, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the method used to tabulate what each casino owed to the local community was unconstitutional. The court initially gave the state until the end of January to come up with a fix.

This looming deadline led to a legislative scramble that saw the House add a local share tax to an existing gaming reform package last fall. This may have been a factor in derailing online gambling’s passage last session, as the Senate wanted to deal with the two issues separately.

In the end nothing passed.

The court has since extended the deadline. Now the two houses of the PA Legislature are looking at tackling both issues, along with several other reforms, in one bill.

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- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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