PA online gambling amendments fail

PA House Shoots Down Online Gambling Amendments, But Hope Isn’t Lost

The Pennsylvania online poker and gambling saga continues, after the state House of Representatives failed to amend a bill with a large gambling expansion.

The good news? Lawmakers will try again next month to pass legislation authorizing PA online casinos.

The latest PA online gambling news 

On Tuesday, the state House of Representatives voted against a pair of gambling amendments to bill HB 1925: A07622 and AO7619. The amendments essentially added Rep. John Payne’s HB 649 — the state’s most recently proposed online gambling expansion bill — to legislation originally proposed by Rep. Jamie Santora.

According to the state legislature’s transcript from the May 24 meeting, A07619 was rejected with a 107-81 vote, while A07622 was voted down 122-66.

The difference between the two amendments, OnlinePokerReport’s Steve Ruddock wrote, had to do with video gaming terminals (VGTs).

Why were there two amendments for the same bill?

The two amendments were nearly identical, but A07622 allowed for VGT’s in places like taverns and private clubs, while A07619 did not include VGTs.

The voting tally for the two amendments reveals that lawmakers appeared to be a bit more willing to pass the bill if it didn’t include a provision for VGTs – that vote garnered 15 more yes votes than its counterpart. 

Though the House defeated both amendments, they agreed to reconsider the gambling legislation at a later date. The vote for reconsideration of the two amendments was overwhelming: a combined 302-76.

According to the Morning Call, that reconsideration will take place on June 6.

Why didn’t the gambling amendments pass?

Because there were two amendments for the same bill, there is speculation that lawmakers were confused during the voting process.

Payne authored the 7619 amendment, while Rep. Mark Mustio penned the 7622 amendment. Yet, at some point in the voting, some lawmakers voted against Mustio’s 7622 because they thought it was Payne’s non-VGT amendment.

Part of the confusion came when Payne was announced as the author of both amendments. The chaotic voting was only surpassed by the overwhelming vote to reconsider both amendments.

The backstory on online gambling in PA

Payne’s HB 649 was first introduced in 2015 and called for the legalization of online gambling via licenses acquired through land-based casinos.

The bill was intended to generate revenue help bridge the deficit in the state’s pension program. It even made it past a committee vote late last year.

Also at stake is the pending retirement of Payne and Democratic chair Rep. Nick Kotik, both of whom serve on the House Gaming Oversight Committee. With both men not seeking re-election this year, there is concern that the enthusiasm for legal online gambling will recede.

The concern is legitimate, considering the previous chair of the Gaming Oversight Committee, Rep. Tina Pickett, openly pushed in 2013 for a two-year ban on online gaming bills in the wake of the introduction of one such bill that year.

Either way, the best chance for online gambling to become reality rests with the House vote — or votes — that appear likely to take place next month.