The good news for online gambling proponents is that plan features $200 million in new revenue from a yet-to-be-passed gaming expansion, according to The Associated Press. Any such package which would almost certainly have to include iGaming to generate that much money in the current fiscal year.
But there’s not much reason to celebrate quite yet.
Republicans said they had a plan to balance the budget on Wednesday, mainly relying on:
Gov. Tom Wolf said he supported the plan. A Senate vote on the revenue package is likely to take place Thursday.
The inclusion of gaming — and almost certainly online gambling — in the plan is good news, but was also largely expected.
The Senate plan — and the future of PA online casinos and poker — faces plenty of hurdles:
A best-case scenario appears to be the House and Senate agreeing to a revenue package with gaming in it, with final legislation passing this fall.
If all this sounds familiar, it’s probably because the state did the same thing last year.
The legislature and Wolf came to an agreement on revenue last year that counted on $100 million from gaming and online gambling. Just like the Senate Republicans’ plan this year, lawmakers in 2016 promised to pass a gaming package in the fall. The only hiccup: They never did.
Things are certainly different this time around. Online gambling has been in the mix throughout the year and has seemingly become a less contentious part of negotiations.
Also in play: Pennsylvania faces a downgraded credit rating if it fails to balance the budget, something lawmakers seem to be very cognizant of in trying to come up with a plan. And there’s this, from the AP:
Failing to balance the budget could result in a freeze on some government spending, potentially affecting schools and counties that administer social service programs. Additionally, nearly $600 million in state aid to Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple and Lincoln universities and the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school remains in limbo.
The sense is that if the House and Senate agree on hundreds of millions of dollars from gambling, they can’t punt on it like they did last year. But it’s also far from a sure thing.
For now, a vote on the Senate is on tap. Then we’ll wait to see what the House does, if anything.