[toc]Legislation that would legalize and regulate online poker across Pennsylvania has been put on hold for now. The PA House and Senate approved spending levels on a $32 billion budget on deadline two weeks ago, but appeared to need a 10-day extension to figure out how to pay for it.
However, discussions that included the adoption of online poker and casino gambling legislation have stalled. The 10 days are now all but up and on Wednesday of this week, the state legislature went into recess. In fact, there is no official date for a planned return.
PA House and Senate on call
As a part of the recess, the PA House and Senate are currently on call. This means leadership could call a session on just six hours notice and force lawmakers to come back. However, they appear far from consensus on a comprehensive PA gambling expansion bill that has been pushed back and forth between branches for months.
Ultimately, the bill that stands at the center of the issue would legalize, regulate and tax:
- PA online poker rooms
- Daily fantasy sports operators
- Video gaming terminals at liquor licensed establishments; and
- Tablet gaming at airports
Online casino tax rates in Pennsylvania
The tax rates for online casinos started out as the biggest sticking point, but has quickly been overtaken by a proposal to authorize video gaming terminals.
The PA Senate first passed legislation proposing a 54 percent proposed tax rate on online casino games. At the time, the bill also included a 16 percent proposed tax rate on online poker operators. Currently, Pennsylvania’s 12 land-based casinos pay that same 54 percent tax on slot machine revenues. However, they only pay a 16 percent on table game revenues.
Before it was passed by the PA House, the bill was amended the bill to include a 16 percent proposed tax rate on all online gambling operations, including online poker. Plus, the House added the plan to authorize video gaming terminals at licensed establishments and other social clubs.
At this point, the tax rate issue may be close to resolution. However, the Senate does not appear to have the votes to pass the video gaming terminal plan.
A gambling initiative catch-all
The bill has become a catch-all for any and all gaming expansion initiative across the state. In fact, there are reports a bill aimed at changing casino ownership laws and clearing a path for a second casino in Philadelphia may also be attached.
A solution to the local share tax deemed unconstitutional by the courts last year is expected to be included. Plus, a plan to authorize the construction of satellite casinos to replace the video gaming terminal plan is also being considered.
It appears that the longer the process takes, the more initiatives get added. Ultimately, the bill has become more complicated and no closer to passing. As a result, online poker and the rest is on the shelf for now, with lawmakers not expected to come back to work until next week at the earliest.