An important hearing on the proposed online gaming bill in Pennsylvania that was scheduled for Tuesday but abruptly cancelled has now been fixed for 18th October. The online gambling bill which was sponsored by Rep. John Payne, had given a lot of hope to the industry that the state would finally give it a proper legal framework in which to function.
The Pennsylvania Senate has just started a short session and the postponement of the hearing a mere two days into the session was seen by the gambling industry as a very bad sign. While the Senate does cancel or reschedule hearings fairly often, this particular one came as a bit of a surprise since the issue of gambling is a very important one and there is a great deal of money at stake here.
The House Gaming Oversight Committee is expected to study the state of the gaming industry in states that permit online gambling, viz, Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. The committee will also study the Daily Fantasy Sports business to get a better understanding of the gambling and related businesses in order to come to an informed decision regarding it.
Lawmakers in Pennsylvania have been flirting with the idea of legalizing online gambling for quite some time now, but enthusiasm for it seems to be patchy. The online gambling industry was galvanized with hope when the online casino proposal was passed in June by the House. However, it has been stuck in the senate since then.
The October 18 hearing is very important because lawmakers have very little time to come to a conclusion on this issue before the current year’s legislative session comes to an end. There are less than seven days available to the Senate for business, including October 18, and if the bill doesn’t make it past the lawmakers then it will have to go back to the very beginning once again in 2017.
In case the gambling expansion bill gets a yes from Senate lawmakers then it will go to the governor for final approval. Incidentally, the proposed expansion of the gambling industry was also included in the state budget.
The state of Pennsylvania needs to have a new set of gambling laws that reflect current realities so that the industry can get the support it requires while players get adequate protection. The state could also increase its tax revenues from this industry. For instance, there is a proposal to install slot machines at the state’s airports. This alone is expected to add $100 million to the state’s revenues. The land based casinos in the state are not generating sufficient taxes as of the present.
The online gambling business has the potential to generate at least $300 million annually whereas the existing land based casino industry is substantially larger. If the business were to become legal then the state would earn 16% of this sum as taxes. The state currently does $5 million of poker every month. Incidentally, New Jersey does pretty much the same amount of poker business even though it has a thriving online casino industry.
DFS Bill Still Pending
There is also a bill on DFS currently placed before the Senate Appropriations Committee. However, it seems unlikely that the Senate will pass the bill on DFS considering that it is unwilling to come to a decision on online gambling.
The big mystery is from where the state will generate the $100 million that gambling was supposed to contribute to the state budget. The only way that the math will add up is if online gambling is legalized and the existing land based gambling industry expanded.