Pennsylvania Omnibus Gambling Bill Presented to House

Posted on: February 10, 2017, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: February 10, 2017, 11:30h.

Pennsylvania’s omnibus gambling reform bill finally made its appearance in the legislature on Thursday.

The bill, HB 392, is sponsored by Representatives George Dunbar (R-56th), Rosita Youngblood (D-198th), and others, and seeks to take off where Representative John Payne (retired) left off.

Pennsylvania Representative Rosita introduces new gambling reform bill
Pennsylvania Representative Rosita Youngblood is a co-sponsor, with Representative George Youngblood, of Pennsylvania’s new gambling expansion package. (Image:

Payne’s online gambling bill was attached to a wider gambling expansion package last year as there seems to be an appetite in the legislature to address all the state’s gambling issues in one fell swoop.

Accordingly, HB 329 is a 209-page whopper, covering everything from the regulation of daily fantasy sports and online gaming, to the authorization of slots at airports, and a fix for the state’s casino rev share problems.

It comes a day after the state’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, unveiled his budget plan for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which factors in $150 million in extra gambling revenues, generated by a gambling expansion package that has yet to become law.

The question is, will it be this gambling package?

Near Miss

Wolf isn’t the only one who believes Pennsylvania will get it together this year. Senator Mario Scavello, chairman of the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, said last month he believed that the state would legalize online gambling sometime in March.

“It looks like online gaming has the support to pass. We can look at other expansions,” he said.

Last year, the bill on which HB 392 is based, came close, finding emphatic approval in the House before ultimately running out of time in the Senate.

A Pennsylvania Supreme Court judgment in September had ruled that tax laws governing revenue-sharing agreements between casinos and their local communities were unconstitutional because they were ultimately differential.

The ruling left communities without crucial revenues, and a quick fix added to the bill needed more time for debate, said the Senate.

What’s in the Bill?

As with its predecessor, HB 392 would solve the rev-share problem by imposing an annual slot license fee on Category 1 and 2 casinos. This time, there is plenty of time to debate the issue.

Meanwhile, HB 392 would tax online gambling licensees at 14 percent, while an additional 2 percent that will go to the host communities of participating land-based casinos. Licenses for casinos would cost $8 million for a five-year license and $250,000 for renewals after that. Technology partners would pay a one-off fee of $2 million, with renewals at $100,000.

DFS operators would be taxed at 12 percent, while five-year licenses would cost $50,000 or 7.5 percent of the previous year’s annual revenue, whichever is the greater.

The bill has been passed to the House Gaming Oversight Committee where it is due for a hearing next Thursday.