Wednesday May 25,2016 : SETBACK FOR ONLINE GAMBLING LEGALISATION IN PENNSYLVANIA (Update)
State House rejects omnibus gambling expansion bill…but all is not lost yet.
In a surprise move Tuesday a proposal to legalise online gambling that morphed into a wider gambling expansion bill was shot down by Pennsylvanian lawmakers in a House vote that went 107 vs. 81 against the measure.
The good news is that there is now talk of a separate bill for online gambling to be reconsidered…perhaps as early as this week.
It was a confusing session, with an amendment to Rep. John Payne's HB649 introduced by Rep. Mark Mustio and including video gaming terminals: that was rejected but was later the subject of a motion to reconsider.
Then Payne came forward, not with HB 649 but with an amendment to HB1925, a tax measure, which he said mirrored his HB649 (a bill that includes regulating and licensing intrastate online gambling and other gambling additions, which Payne identified as tablet gaming in land casinos, online gambling and slots at airports, slots at off-track betting parlors, 24-hour liquor sales at brick-and-mortar casinos and others…but not video gaming terminals)
Despite extensive debate and impassioned pleas from Payne, who revealed that he has spent 18 months as chairman of the Gaming Oversight Committee and attended 47 meetings and hearings with interested parties in trying to build an equitable and practical consensus to protect consumers and raise tax revenues for the state, his amendment was rejected on a vote of 107 vs. 81.
Another motion to reconsider the Payne amendment was then made and passed with a larger majority than the rejection vote, perhaps illustrating the level of confusion, and not a little ignorance, among legislators.
It is not clear when this reconsideration could take place, but some observers have suggested that it could be almost immediately.
Payne still has HB649 as a standalone bill to fall back on before the legislative season ends, but that remains burdened with other gambling additions as was the case with his amendment to the tax bill…and the confusion could continue with the similar move to reconsider Mustio's VGT proposal still on the table as well.
Payne stressed that by regulating online gambling, which is widely available throughout the state anyway from foreign operators, lawmakers would be protecting consumers.
“If you are going to vote ‘no’, please don’t use the crutch that it’s because you want to protect people," he urged fellow legislators.
"The protections are in this amendment…We are, like it or not, the majority shareholder in the casino industry because we get 54 percent of the [revenue]. In the private sector that would mean we are the majority shareholder. It behoves us to make sure our casinos do well because we get more money.”