The news is welcome, and after several years of “close but no cigar,” online poker players and supporters of legal online gambling might finally be able to put a checkmark in the win column.
A session has been scheduled in the House for Friday that could lead to a vote on the gaming package and several other measures. The legislature races against the clock to come up with a funding package to accompany the spending bill it passed on June 30.
Gaming is one of the few places Pennsylvania can turn to for instant revenue.
An analysis shows online gambling would generate about $126 million in direct revenue in Year 1, and tally over $425 million after five years.
Not surprisingly, Senate President Joe Scarnati told Lancaster Online that gaming would be a part of the funding. But he “would not say what would be in the gambling legislation.”
Based on separate gaming packages passed by the House and Senate, and piecing together recent source chatter, the gaming reform package will do the following:
Notably absent from the legislation is the authorization of video gaming terminals (VGTs) at bars, restaurants and truck stops.
VGTs have long divided the legislature, and at different points its threatened to upend the entire process.
The Senate’s gaming reform package didn’t include VGTs. On the House side, there were just enough votes to get VGTs in its version of a gaming package.
However, the issue remained a non-starter in the Senate. It was eventually stripped from the gaming package according to the latest reports, including Scarnati himself.
According to Lancaster Online:
“Scarnati suggested that provisions that had stalled the legislation in recent weeks — such as allowing slot machine-style gambling terminals in thousands of bars and truck stops — would be left out.”
However, VGTs could still find their way into the legislation. There has been talk of allowing VGTs at certain off-track-betting parlors that are a certain distance from a casino. That’s a provision the Senate is more open to.
The Senate’s package taxed online casino games at 54 percent and online poker at 16 percent. The House’s version taxed online gambling at 16 percent across the board.
According to one source, the gap between the two factions is closing.
Another source indicated there is a general consensus in the legislature that the tax rate needs to be significantly lower than 54 percent. However, the final number still needs to be decided.