Online Gambling Included In Latest Budget Package Bill

Pennsylvania lawmakers are working overtime this week in an attempt to break through an impasse concerning the state budget package, a measure which is already five months overdue.

In a vote today, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a $30.8 billion spending bill which includes $435 million for K-12 education. While the legislation received bipartisan support and has the backing of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, it was rejected by house GOP members.

House Republicans were instead working on their own plan, which would be funded in part by online gambling. They project that iGaming could pay for $120 million of the package, with tobacco taxes making up $150 million, and one time online gaming license fees kicking in an additional $24 million.

Soon after the Senate vote, the House Appropriations Committee voted 21-11 to approve a $30.2 billion spending plan which will require fewer new taxes, but will leave less money for education. A vote on the measure might take place as soon as Tuesday, although many believe that the exercise would be in vain as Gov. Wolf wouldn’t support it.

“The bill that came out of the House Appropriations Committee is not what the governor agreed to,” said Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan.

Positive step for iGaming

Yet the inclusion of online gaming in the potential budget package means that there is a real possibility that some form of the industry will become legalized this year. While it’s unclear exactly how iGaming will be implemented, it’s likely that much of the language in the budget bill was taken from John Payne’s online gaming legislation HB 649.

Payne has often touted his bill as a way to shore up the state budget without raising taxes. Indeed, the cash-strapped government could immediately reap $8 million in license fees per casino from operators interested in offering online gambling. In addition, iGaming software providers would pay $2 million each to receive their own license, according to HB 649.

What is still unknown is how the Senate plans to pay for its budget bill, which includes twice the amount of expenditures as the house GOP’s version. Poker players remain hopeful that lawmakers will seize this opportunity to legalize online gaming and create a new source of revenue for the state government.