Pennsylvania Legislators Playing Ping-Pong With Online Gambling Bill

online-gambling-pennsylvaniaAnd so it goes, back and forth. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has approved again online gambling and daily fantasy sports legislation. It’s now up to the Senate to move the bill forward. But the odds are slim for that to happen when the Senate reconvenes for a one day session the week after the November 8 election.

A special session for the House was convened yesterday, October 27, to wrap up unfinished legislative business. Part of which was a quick-fix to temporarily fill the funding gap that was created in September when the state Supreme Court struck down a local tax share issue as unconstitutional. The tax share legislation was presented as a way to share casino revenue tax with the have-not counties of Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania House did approve their HB 1887 by a 1/3 margin with a permanent fix for the tax share issue as well as attaching airport mobile gaming, online gambling and daily fantasy sports language to the bill. It looks as though the House has put the Senate between a rock and a hard spot. If the Senate votes down the bill in November, they will deny communities of their slots tax revenue. But the Senate may have the upper hand as they have successfully delayed a vote until after the election so that Senators facing re-election wouldn’t have to deal with the volatile slots tax and online gambling issue.

Naturally, State Senator Pat Brown said that he was hoping the House would pass HB 1887 without any attached amendments and that the Senate would “definitely come back in a few weeks and take a look at [the amended bill], but we still haven’t decided whether to vote on it.” What he meant by that, was that the Senate could kick the online gambling issue further down the road, until next year’s session. General Counsel for the Senate, Drew Compton, put it more bluntly by saying that the Senate “did what we did on gaming and I think that’s all we plan on doing for the rest of the year.”

The most likely scenario seems to be that the Senate will decline to approve HB 1887 as it stands, in November. If so, HB 1887 and all other unapproved bills on the docket will die. The process will have to start all over as the bills will have to be reintroduced when the new legislative session commences in January. And that is how our government legislators can evade issues to suit their own agendas.

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