Wolf approved omnibus gaming expansion this week that included online lottery, gambling, poker
Online Poker Report

Pennsylvania Governor: ‘There’s Been A Lot Of Pressure’ To Expand Gambling

Wolf on PA gambling
Before Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed an expansive gaming package this week, many weren’t sure how excited he was about it, or if he would approve it at all.

Wolf gave us a glimpse this week into his thinking about the package that was one of the biggest expansions of gaming seen in the US in recent years.

It legalized a number of things, including online poker, gambling and lottery, daily fantasy sports and potentially sports betting.

What Wolf said on PA gaming

While not mentioning online gambling — or any other pieces of the gaming package — specifically, Wolf did sound like a fan of the bill approved by the legislature last week.

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“There’s been a lot of pressure from a lot of places in the Commonwealth to actually expand this,” said Wolf. “We do need some recurring revenue so the goal all along has been to do what is prudent without cannibalizing existing gambling revenues coming to the state. And I think what we are settling on will actually do that.”

That doesn’t sound like a man who signed the bill begrudgingly as a part of an often difficult process of balancing the state’s budget. He could have simply let the bill become law without signing it, had he let a 10-day period elapse when the bill was on his desk.

He also says that the package will not cannibalize existing gaming revenue, something opponents of iGaming have said at different points in the legislative process.

Wolf’s vocal support of the package should put online gambling, if not all the other elements, on solid ground as it rolls out in PA.

Wolf has been counting on gaming all year

In reality, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Wolf is supportive of the package. Why?

  • Wolf’s version of the budget earlier in the year counted on $250 million from gaming.
  • He talked about online gambling specifically in a virtual town hall this year.
  • Wolf has repeatedly said he wanted recurring revenue from any package designed to cover a $2 billion shortfall in the state budget. A vast majority of the new revenue is borrowing against the state’s tobacco settlement.

Not everyone’s happy with the gaming package

The new law has been getting pushback from many corners. A number of lawmakers have been throwing shade at the bill when it surfaced last week and quickly won approval from both the House and Senate.

But the narrative they and some state media outlets are advancing — that the law wasn’t thoroughly vetted — has little basis in reality. Online gambling has been on the radar of the state for five years. Much of the language that ended up in the law has been around for at least a few years. Negotiations about the gaming package have been going on behind the scenes for months.

That’s hardly a bill that was passed without much consideration. Yes, things like video gaming terminals at truck stops and the rollout of so-called satellite casinos came about quickly. But claiming the whole bill appeared out of nowhere is silly.

Regardless, that’s all crying over spilt milk. Wolf and a majority of lawmakers support the gaming law. The state should be focused on an effective rollout of the provisions it enacted.

Image credit: George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com

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Dustin Gouker
- 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.