There's been lots of momentum with regards to the online gambling bill, but the passing does not come without its challenges dues to the hefty fee requirements for onlline casinos.
There is no exaggeration in saying that this week was a landmark one for Pennsylvania online gambling news! Online gaming regulation is closer than ever before following a gambling expansion bill cleared by the Senate. The bill is now on its way to the House, but do not get too excited just yet.
Needless to say, this is certainly great progress. However, the current bill is far from ideal. We hope that the House will find a way to meet in the middle on some vital issues, but that is easier said than done.
For the time being, business decisions in the state’s casino market could result in a shift in industry support for the bill.
There are a lot of moving parts, so here is a sum up of a busy week of news. This would help you understand how much progress online gambling is making, as well as how far it still needs to go:
Pennsylvania Online Gambling has Busy week in Harrisburg
Obviously, there is one story that dominated the headlines in Pennsylvania. The state Senate returned from recess and wasted little time taking action on the gambling expansion legislation.
Those who were inside the industry expected progress this week. After all, the state was days away from the court-imposed deadline in order to resolve its casino host fee problem.
Progress indeed. Here is a rundown of the PA online casinos that are most likely to open in 2018.
Bill clears appropriations committee with obscene tax rates
The gambling expansion bill HB 271 was passed through committee with resounding votes of 24-2. It also underwent a number of changes.
Most notably, the rate of tax for online casinos came in. Many worried the tax rates would parallel brick and mortar standards, with 54 percent of slots and 16 percent of poker and table games. Those rates would be a hurdle for online casinos to succeed.
It turned out that the rates were even worse than expected. The table games were slated at the rate of 54 percent, instead of 16 percent. The taxes, combined with hefty fees on multiple licenses, made it effectively impossible to run a profitable online gambling site for some people.
Senate sends HB 271 on to the house
Later in the week, the bill cleared another committee vote. It then passed on the Senate floor by 38-12 votes. The bill’s separate license fees of an amount of $5 million each for peer-to-peer and casino games remained, as did the tax rates.
Other complicated elements to be taken into consideration about the bill are video gaming terminals (VGTs) and the previously mentioned casino host fee. As we have seen earlier in the week, so long as the host fee and online gambling are attached to the same bill, iGaming proponents stand a better chance at getting the bill passed into law.
PA Online Casinos - What to expect from the house?
The bill now moves onto the House, a group that has normally been much more supportive of online gambling than the Senate. Rep. George Dunbar, a strong proponent of the issue, spoke to Online Poker Report about what the expectations should be.
While the current state of the bill seems dire, Dunbar assures plenty of changes are in store. We can also expect a battle on the VGT front.
“We’re a step further than we’ve ever been,” Dunbar said. “It’s not a great step, but it’s a step.”
MGM/Sands sale fail throws a wrench in online gambling progress
Both MGM Resorts and Sands Corporation never confirmed the $1.3 billion sales of Sands Bethlehem Casino, but many sources within the state gave confirmation that it was happening.
Not anymore though.
The sale allegedly fell through, this week. There is no definitive reason as to why MGM is backing off the sale, but there is plenty of speculation.
The local media speculates somewhat in HB 271 gave MGM cold feet though. It could be something to do with host fee negotiations, but the idea MGM does not want online gambling in the state does not make much sense.
Either way, it definitely sounds like the apparently done deal is no more.
This is an interesting development for the legislation. The question is, with Sands remaining in the state, will it become a vocal opponent of the measure like Parx Casino. If so, the top two casinos in the state would oppose the crux of the bill. It would make the road to regulation much bumpier.
We'll make sure to keep you updated regarding the lastet news srrounding all online gambling regulations!