There were two hurdles Pennsylvania needed to leap to see gambling expanded in the state.
Lawmakers glided over the first earlier this month — a budget funding package — after an endless string of stumbles and, this past week, the House and Senate agreed on a gambling expansion bill that now awaits the signature of Gov. Tom Wolf.
This past Wednesday, the Senate passed its version of the gambling bill. The House approved the bill the following day and sent the bill to Wolf. Now, as so many times before over the past two years, we wait.
One gaming consultant characterized the bill as one of the most assertive he’s seen from a state with casinos.
“It’s one of the most aggressive gambling expansion bills I’ve seen in any state that already had casinos,” Spectrum Gaming Group’s Joe Weinert told U.S. News & World Report.
The PA Senate passed its gaming expansion bill 31-19
Wednesday was a good day for gambling in Pennsylvania, as the Senate passed its gaming package, H 271, by a vote of 31-19.
The gaming bill included the following legalized, regulated and/or authorized additions to the PA casino and gambling landscape:
- Online slot machines, table games and poker
- Daily fantasy sports
- Sports betting, should PASPA be overturned by SCOTUS
- Online lottery sales
- Video gaming terminals at truck stops (VGTs)
- Tablet gambling in certain areas of certain airports
- Up to 10 satellite casinos
- Updates to Category 3 licenses
The Senate’s gambling bill was massive, adding nearly everything we’d expected except video gambling terminals at taverns.
This was what most considered to be the Senate’s breaking point, but lawmakers bent just enough to get the votes for the bill. Rather than passing a no-VGTs package, it conceded to truck stops.
House makes history by approving PA online gambling bill
Whereas the Senate wanted no VGTs in the gaming package, the House wanted the full slate of terminals: truck stops, airports and taverns.
The Senate’s middle ground was enough for the House, which took up discussion of the bill Wednesday. Bill backer Rep. George Dunbar was sweating that evening out as there was a majority of House members who wanted to send the bill back to the Gaming Oversight Committee.
Dunbar went so far as to call his wife around 10:45 p.m. and say that things weren’t looking good for the bill. By a small miracle, though, sending the bill back never went to a vote and the gaming package survived until the next morning.
When Dunbar woke up from sleeping in his office, the mood had changed. House lawmakers were, in general, supportive of what was on the table and passed the bill 109-72.
PA House passes gaming reform bill by a vote of 109-72.
— Steve Ruddock (@SteveRuddock) October 26, 2017
We now await the signature from Wolf. The governor, it would seem, would be quite happy to get wins on both the budget funding and gambling by the end of the month. He does have the option, however, of doing nothing and letting the bill pass into law without his signature. He has until Nov. 5 to decide.
Image credit: George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com