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There’s no other way to explain what is going on in Pennsylvania in regards to online gambling legalization.
The Pennsylvania Legislature is trying to put a dent in a growing budget deficit with around $100 million in new gaming revenue. At the same time, lawmakers are attempting to come up with a fix for the local share tax issue.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court dropped the matter into the Legislature’s lap late last year, when it ruled that the share tax portion of the 2004 Pennsylvania Gaming Act was unconstitutional.
To say the Legislature is under the gun is putting it lightly.
The local share tax has a soft deadline of May 25 before the flow of money is cut off to the local communities. The hard deadline is July 15. The state is also running out of time if it wants to use some of money it will collect from online gaming licensing fees towards the 2016/2017 budget.
A gaming reform package that includes the legalization and regulation of online gambling is hung up in the Pennsylvania Senate. This, despite the pressing need to pass the legislation.
The simple solution would take care of both of the issues in a non-disruptive way. That is passing a gaming reform package similar to the bills the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has been championing for the better part of three years.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be the Pennsylvania Senate’s style. The Senate is not only looking the gift horse sent over from the House in the mouth, it decided to send it to the glue factory.
The Senate seems determined to do one of the following:
Unable or unwilling to pass the House’s noncontroversial gaming reform package, the Senate CERD Committee is reportedly crafting its own version of a comprehensive gaming reform bill that would draw from the following list of proposals:
In an interview Online Poker Report last week, Sen. Mario Scavello, the chairman of the CERD Committee, said he expected the committee to introduce a gaming reform package. He also said he anticipated a vote in the Senate this week.
The ongoing delays by the Senate and the continued quibbling over specifics have opened the door to all sorts of alternative ideas. The number of gaming proposals the Senate is heaping onto its own plate has reached “all you can eat buffet” levels.
In addition to the possibility of a comprehensive gaming reform package, several of the proposals it contains are being considered as standalone bills:
If that wasn’t enough, there are two other gaming expansions that could either replace or supplement online gambling kicking around Harrisburg:
The bottom line is this: The Senate’s inaction isn’t paring down the number of proposals. It’s increasing them.
Pennsylvania’s senators need to get their act together and pass a gaming reform. Otherwise, the state and municipalities affected by the casino local share tax will have holes blown in their budgets.
If that occurs, Pennsylvanians know what happens next: tax hikes.
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