Online gambling legislation has a new timeline in Pennsylvania.
In fact, a deadline has been set, although it’s not going to be an easy one to meet.
Several Steps Before Passage
Republican state Sen. Mario Scavello, who chairs the Pennsylvania Senate’s Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, told Erie Times-News political reporter Nico Salvatori he expects a comprehensive gambling expansion bill to be voted out of committee when legislators return from a recess on May 22.
Scavello told Salvatori the bill would be voted on by the full Senate no later than May 24, before it heads to The House.
The House would then presumably vote on the bill or make amendments requiring Senate approval before it is ultimately sent to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk for approval.
What’s the Hangup?
Bill H 271 was passed by The House last month with a plan to allow the Senate to amend it to include a number of gambling expansion initiatives, including the authorization of online casinos and online poker sites.
The bill was moved to the Senate floor last month, but immediately sent to the Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee.
Proposed tax rates continue to be the biggest issue in regards to online casino and online poker operations.
Local Share Fix Must Happen
According to Scavello, the move to get the bill passed by the full Senate before May 24 is an effort to meet a May 26 State Supreme Court deadline for action in regards to the state’s local share payments.
These local share payments are the amount of tax money distributed to counties and municipalities hosting casinos in Pennsylvania. However, the State Supreme Court ruled the payments unconstitutional this past September, giving Pennsylvania lawmakers until January 26 to amend the law. That deadline was then extended until May 26.
Scavello says it is the Senate’s intention to address the issue with this new comprehensive gambling expansion bill.
Tight Squeeze to Meet Deadline
In the meantime, State Rep. Pat Harkins told Salvatori getting the bill passed in the House before that May 26 deadline could prove impossible, and he expects it will be hung up until late June during budget negotiations.
The legislation is also expected to include a number of contentious gambling expansion issues including video gaming terminals in bars and restaurants and satellite casino locations. The goal is to pass a comprehensive bill, but that clearly makes it more difficult to meet the May 26 deadline.
Plus, The Senate alone has yet to come to an agreement on the online gambling tax revenue issue, with a number of stakeholders and lawmakers all in disagreement on what will ultimately work.
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