Despite hold-up, online gambling remains in the mix in PA

‘Every Day Holds The Promise Of A Miracle’: The Wait For PA Online Gambling Continues

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The latest version of the Pennsylvania Senate calendar does not include action on a massive gaming bill that includes the legalization of online gambling and daily fantasy sports.

But it does include this message: “Every day holds the possibility of a miracle.”

Heading into the weekend, it’s not clear if Pennsylvania iGaming needs a miracle or not. While the bill is not on the Senate’s agenda right now, it still seems very likely that action is coming soon on the gaming legislation.

Where we’re at on PA online gambling

Officially, little has changed on the iGaming front.

The bill in question — H 271 — still lies dormant. No action has been taken since it made its way back from the House in early June. The bill is technically in the Senate Rules Committee, still.

It is not on the calendar when the Senate reconvenes on Saturday afternoon, pushing possible action to Sunday or next week. (There’s also the possibility of a supplemental calendar on which the bill would appear on Saturday.)

Unofficially, source chatter from the state has controversial video gaming terminals favored by the House stripped out of the bill’s language.

There has also been a lot of talk of compromise on the tax rate for online gambling — somewhere between the 54 percent rate the Senate passed and the 16 percent rate of the House. A rate closer to the latter appears likely, should the gaming package move.

DFS remains a non-controversial part of the larger gaming bill.

Other moving parts in PA gaming?

A new report from Penn Live introduced new dynamics in the debate over gaming, although it’s not clear how serious any of them are. That report confirmed that VGTs have met a brick wall in the Senate.

Beyond that, however, are a number of other possibilities being floated:

  • Adding new casino licenses in the state, with the possibility that “licenses would then be auctioned to the highest bidder.”
  • The regulation of so-called “games of skill” that look like slot machines.
  • A provision opening up gaming laws to be revisited again next year.

What’s next? Who knows.

What’s clear is that a lot of political sausage is currently being made on the gaming bill behind closed doors. That’s what happened in the House in June. The gaming bill that had been dormant for sometime suddenly reappeared with new provisions and quickly passed the House in a close vote.

Will the same happen again for the gaming bill, with leaders of both houses getting to common ground on a bill that is quickly amended and voted upon? That is the hope for proponents of iGaming and those that would like to see gaming measures help clean up Pennsylvania’s budget mess.

- 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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