PA Governor, Republicans Talk Budget Expenditures, Leaving An Opening For Online Gambling

Negotiations in Pennsylvania’s budget impasse have continued with little progress, but the revelation that Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislators are only talking about expenditures creates hope that online poker and gambling regulation could be part of the revenue side of talks.

What the sides are talking about

According to media reports, Wolf and Republicans have made “progress” in budget negotiations.

Quantifying that progress, and on what topics progress has been made, has been elusive so far. Trib Live took a stab at doing so earlier this week, without much success:

In the longest budget negotiation during a 21-day stalemate, Wolf, a Democrat, and legislative GOP leaders shared pizza while claiming they made progress. But they reported no breakthroughs and acknowledged they focused only on expenditures. The lawmakers and governor also didn’t agree on how much the state should spend.

For a budget stalemate that has lasted three weeks, that’s about as good as it has gotten for the state in getting to an actual budget.

If they ever figure out expenditures…

If the two sides still haven’t agreed on how much to spend, that means they likely have no clue how they are going to pay for the state’s expenditures. Wolf’s original budget would have instituted a variety of new taxes and increases, while Republicans have made it clear they don’t want to raise taxes.

At some point, the two sides will have to come to a middle ground between no tax increases and Wolf’s suite of increases, if Pennsylvania is going to have a completed budget.

On the expenditure side of talks, however, the more Wolf and Republicans decide to spend, the better it would seem to be for the prospects of legislation that would regulate online gambling. While the tax rate imposed on online gambling would be up for debate, the idea of allowing iGaming in the state has had a lot of momentum until this month.

Reason for pessimism for iGaming, too

Penn National Gaming CEO Tim Wilmott addressed the topic of online gaming in his company’s earnings call yesterday. And while he remained optimistic on the future of iGaming in the state, he was bearish on its prospects for this year.

Here’s what Wilmott said:

“I think there’s more lawmakers here in Harrisburg that are interested in the revenue potential of all these different options. And I think it’s very difficult to predict. We don’t expect anything happening in ’15, but we’ve been encouraged by the hearings that we’ve participated in, in and around the state of Pennsylvania, that there’s more of an appetite to consider these options than there ever has been.”

At the same time, PNG Senior Vice President of Public Affairs & Government Relations Eric Schippers said he wouldn’t rule out that iGaming could still come up in budget talks.

Until Democrats and Republicans decide what they are going to spend money on, how they are going to pay for it and how online gambling fits it into the puzzle will remain a mystery.

Photo by Eric Milot used under license CC BY 2.0.