Sunday April 6,2014 : PENNSYLVANIAN LAWMAKERS AWAIT ONLINE GAMBLING REPORT (Update)
May publication should reignite the legalization debate.
The report on internet gambling legalization by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget & Finance Committee is due for presentation in May and should reignite the debate on whether to legalise or not.
Late in November last year the state Senate approved a resolution by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati that tasked the committee to investigate the issue and report back timeously. The tasking specifically directed that the committee analyse how online gaming could impact state tax revenues, and its possible impact on employment in the state’s existing gaming facilities.
Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos employ more than 16,000 people and have generated some $6 billion in tax revenues since 2004.
Economic and competitive factors have resulted in Pennsylvanian land casino tax revenues plateauing in recent times, prompting lawmakers to examine additional sources of tax revenues.
With Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey already successfully legalised, there is empirical evidence available that could influence the Pennsylvanian decision either way.
The committee's report will be closely examined by both pro and anti-online gambling politicians; so far there appears to have been only weak support for legalization, judging by the response to budget suggestions and to a bill introduced some time ago by Representative Tina Davis, which has made little headway in the House Directly opposing Davis's bill is a measure seeking to prohibit any form of Internet gambling launched by Republican Paul Clymer in the House under title HB1404 and carrying stiff penalties There has been little appetite for that bill, either, and it has remained bogged down in the House Gaming Oversight Committee since its introduction last May.
Many Republicans are at best only lukewarm on the concept of legalization, with House Republican Party spokesman Stephen Miskin recently telling the Associated Press news agency:
“I'm not sure there's a whole lot of support in our caucus right now for it.”
Gov. Jim Corbett is also less than enthusiastic; he has plans to raise tax revenues by expanding state lottery activity, but his spokesman Jay Pagni says he has little interest in taking the lottery online:
“The governor would be reluctant to have wholesale expansion of online gaming, or even something like online poker,” Pagni said. “Online gaming presents issues associated with access. The governor’s goal, when he announced small games, was, ‘We need to look at this in a measured fashion and ensure that safeguards are in place.’ ”
The governor intends to review the committee's investigative report before making a decision as to the best path forward, Pagni added.
Republican Sen. Elder Vogel told Associated Press that he’s interested in “…serious discussions about online gambling" if Senate leaders decide to go down that road. If the report finds it could be a good revenue source, he would probably support the move, he said. “Obviously other states around us are doing it so we need to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak.”
Several politicians approached by Associated Press had differing views on the acceptability of legalised online gambling in Pennsylvania, illustrating a bipartisan divide between supporters and doubters.
Those against are mainly concerned about potential societal problems caused by the convenience with which internet and mobile gambling can be accessed, although some feel that if the pastime is inevitable it is better controlled by the state, which implies intrastate legalization