Pennsylvania Tablet Gambling Could Land at Keystone State Airports
Posted on: April 5, 2017, 01:00h.
Last updated on: April 5, 2017, 11:23h.
A Pennsylvania tablet gambling bill that seeks to authorize real money casino wagering on electronic terminals inside airports has passed the state’s House of Representatives.
Introduced by State Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-District 46), House Bill 271 would allow licensed casino holders in Pennsylvania to apply for an airport terminal tablet gaming permit for a one-time fee of $1 million. Gross revenues would be taxed at 34 percent, with 14 percent going to the state, and the remaining 20 percent earmarked for the airport.
The measure passed easily in the Republican-controlled House on April 4, with 142 votes in favor to just 56 against.
Tablet gambling in Ortitay’s bill doesn’t mean online betting or wagering on personal devices. Instead, licensed electronic tablets featuring approved games would be housed in terminals in specific areas.
Those over the age of 21 would be permitted to access the interactive games while physically located within authorized airports in Pennsylvania. Airports would only qualify for tablet gambling if they are publicly owned and service at least 50,000 passengers annually.
HB 271 now moves to the Pennsylvania Senate, where gambling expansion hasn’t yet been so willingly embraced. Like the House, the Senate is heavily controlled by the GOP, but the legislators in the upper chamber have been hesitant to get on board with the gambling push.
All Talk, Little Action
It seems like every week a new gambling expansion measure originates out of Pennsylvania. For more than a year, politicians have been looking at the merits of increasing gambling options to Keystone State residents in order to grow revenues to fund Governor Tom Wolf’s (D) growing budget demands.
The first-term governor wants to spend more on education, and is also trying to curtail the state’s widespread heroin and opioid epidemic. Online gambling, sports betting, daily fantasy sports, slots in airports, slots in bars, tablet casinos in airports, and more have all been considered in Harrisburg.
To date, nothing has passed and reached Wolf’s desk. The governor says he isn’t opposed to expanded gambling, but doesn’t believe it can fulfill the state’s mounting economic challenges.
In addition to passing Ortitay’s tablet gambling legislation this week, the House also approved a budget that was heavily opposed by Democratic lawmakers. Ortitay, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, helped draft the fiscal blueprint.
In February, Wolf suggested a $32.3 billion spending plan with $1 billion in new taxes. Yesterday, the House approved a $31.5 billion, or $800 million less, with no new taxes.
The House budget proposal calls for expanded gambling to help fund $150 million in additional public school spending. Ortitay believes it’s the best way forward, but concedes that path to finalizing a budget remains long.
“While this is an important step in the process, I’m hopeful the Senate and governor will carefully study the House plan to reinvent Pennsylvania and come on board,” Ortitay explained.
It took the Republican General Assembly and Wolf 267 days past its supposed deadline to reach a budget agreement for the 2015-2016 legislative year.
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