In Pennsylvania, Could Sports Betting Revenue Help Struggling Homeowners?

A Pennsylvania lawmaker proposes temporarily sending sports betting fees to the state's Property Tax Relief Fund.
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A handful of Pennsylvania lawmakers are trying to translate legal sports wagering fees into a fix for struggling homeowners. Last week, Sen. Doug Mastriano introduced SB 1117, which would amend Title 4 of the state constitution and direct any fees associated with sports betting to the Property Tax Relief Fund.

The idea is that redirection of funds would be a temporary fix to help homeowners during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to the text of the bill, the goal would be to “mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 on property owners in this Commonwealth.” The bill calls for all authorization, manufacturer license, and manufacturer renewal fees, in addition to monies collected for violations with regard to the fees, to be directed to the fund. The sports betting license application fee in Pennsylvania is $10 million, among the highest in the nation.

PA mobile sports betting still live, but revenue down

Sports betting fees are currently sent to the state’s General Fund. A portion of revenue from the 12 casinos’ slot machine options are dedicated to property tax relief, but that allocation is being severely impacted by the casinos’ shutdown since mid-March.

“Pennsylvania homeowners already face high property taxes, and the COVID-19 pandemic will only worsen that reality,” Mastriano told ABC News 27. “It is imperative that we help our citizens now during their greatest time of need, and temporarily re-allocate sports betting revenue toward property tax relief.”

Pennsylvania is one of nine states with online and mobile sports betting. Operators there continue to offer sports wagering on far-flung events from Belarus soccer to snooker. Unlike in some other states, however, they are not authorized to take wagers on Thursday’s NFL Draft.

Since the coronavirus crisis shuttered retail sportsbooks and professional sports in the U.S. last month, sports betting revenue has decreased across the country. In March, handle in Pennsylvania dropped to $131 million from $329.9 million in February. Prior to March, Pennsylvania sportsbooks had four consecutive months with handle of $316 million or more.

March is usually one of the best months of the year for sportsbooks, but the cancellation of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and all other U.S. sports has taken a giant bite out of handle and revenue across the country.

Pennsylvania has been able to make up some of the lost sports betting revenue from an increase in online casino.

SB 1117 was immediately referred to the Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, which is set to meet on Thursday. No agenda for the meeting was available.

Photo by Andrey Popov / Shutterstock.com

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