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Wolf talked gaming on Wednesday, and appeared to downplay the feasibility of video gaming terminals as a source of revenue. That could be good news for the prospect of legalizing online gambling in the state.
Pennsylvania is coming up on the new fiscal year, which starts on July 1. State lawmakers are trying to get a budget plan together by then — including cuts to programs or new revenue initiatives.
One of the major moving parts in that discussion is a gaming package. Different versions have been passed by the House and Senate. While both contain provisions for online gambling, the House version included the legalization of VGTs at taverns around the state.
When asked about the gaming package, here’s what Wolf had to say, according to the Associated Press:
Speaking to reporters, Wolf avoided saying that he outright opposes two key Republican ideas: borrowing against future state revenue and legalizing gambling on slot machine-style games in thousands of bars, truck stops and other locations. Rather, he suggested that such ideas concern him. …
“I want real revenue, and I want net revenue,” Wolf told reporters after appearing at an unrelated public event in the Capitol. “I don’t want anything that we do in gaming or gambling to interfere with the revenues that are already in place. If it just cannibalizes and takes from one bucket called gambling to another, the commonwealth isn’t doing anything more than it has in the past.”
GamblingCompliance (paywall) also reported that Wolf’s office is actively working with lawmakers on the gaming package.
Wolf has been anything but silent when trying to communicate what he wants on gaming for PA:
Opposition to VGTs remains the major point of contention in the Senate, where the gaming package is currently under consideration for a second time.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said that the inclusion of VGTs slowed progress on the bill. Discussion other parts of it — like the tax rate for iGaming — have sat on the sidelines while the VGT issue is worked on.
The subtext of Wolf’s statement would seem to argue that VGTs will cannibalize land-based casino revenue, from which the state derives significant revenue.
The major revenue-producing gaming measures under consideration are basically iGaming, online lottery and VGTs. While there are many other provisions in the gaming package, most of those would provide a relatively small amount of money for state coffers.
So the bottom line is this: If the state wants to make some real money from new gaming measures, lawmakers have to include one or all of these things.
And if VGTs don’t make the cut for the PA Senate or for Wolf’s camp, then that leaves everyone counting on iGaming.
That’s a good omen for proponents of iGaming regulation in the state. But none of it is a done deal yet.