STILL A LONG ROAD TO PENNSYLVANIA LEGALIZATION (Update)
January 3rd meeting has an agenda that goes beyond online gambling.
Pennsylvania Senator Kim Ward's January 3rd "informational" meeting between lawmakers and land casino operators has an agenda that reportedly goes beyond online gambling legalization and the budget deficit, embracing also recent court rulings on tax and contributions to hosting communities by land casino operators.
It's likely to make for a wide-ranging and time-consuming closed-door meeting as solutions are sought to a number of contentious issues, and in any event Senator Ward has already indicated that as far as online gambling is concerned at least six months will pass before any legalization is likely to be approved.
Our readers may recall that despite passing the state House on two occasions last year, the Senate managed to kill off a gambling expansion bill that included online gambling legalization as a means to help provide an additional $100 million to the state budget.
The land casino delegates at the meeting are likely to be more concerned about a state Supreme Court decision which recently struck down a decade-old law that had required casinos to pay hefty fees to their host communities.
The court gave lawmakers until January to pass a replacement bill, but that has not happened. Whilst some operators are prepared to continue funding host communities anyway (Sheldon Adelson's Sands Bethlehem is a notable exception) there have been calls for a more equitable distribution of this largesse to communities that do not have a land casino on their soil.
Sen. Ward is in favor of that, saying: "We'd like to get some revenue, some way, into the counties that aren't recipients of the largesse that comes along with having a casino in your district."
Ward also noted that any changes to the law can't be pushed off, opining that this is likely the only opportunity lawmakers will have in many years to change the funding streams.
"Once you open the bill, if there are going to be changes, they're going to come now," she said. "That's not going to happen again for a long, long time."