Pennsylvania Online Poker Unlikely to Pass Before 2016

Posted on December 14th, 2015 by Jon Pineda

Pennsylvania online poker budget

Democrat Governor Tom Wolf and the Republican legislature are reportedly discontinuing any plans to legalize Pennsylvania online poker in the interim. (Image: Emma Lee/WHYY)

Pennsylvania online poker is being shelved for 2015, State Rep. John Payne’s (R-District 106) legislation that would authorize poker on the Internet failing to find good favor among Senate Republicans.

It’s been more than 150 days since Pennsylvania lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf (D) were supposed to approve an operating budget.

The Republican-led legislature and democrat governor have been at odds on determining the best strategy to fund the Keystone State.

Wolf has demanded a tax increase to boost funding to public schools and help restore education spending to levels it was at before his Republican predecessor Tom Corbett cut aid in 2011.

Conservatives in both the House of Representatives and Senate are against any tax increase, which is why Payne’s legislation (HB 649) to legalize online poker and gambling gained backing in his chamber as a potential solution to satisfy the demands of both Wolf and the GOP.

86 on 649

Payne’s bill was approved by the House Gaming Oversight in mid-November, a committee in which the representative from Dauphin County also chairs.

During budget talks in the House, members elected to include such provisions to license Internet poker in order to raise revenues without placing additional tariffs on residents.

However, the House budget has been bypassed by the Senate in favor of its own economic blueprint.

Senate members aren’t as gung-ho on turning to gaming expansion in order to fund education, Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-District 34) saying recently, “We don’t have the votes for that.”

Instead, the Senate’s $30.8 billion budget plan would overhaul public pensions, privatize the state-run wine and liquor industry, and allow for the expansion of charter schools.

Payne to Continue Push

Lawmakers in Harrisburg are hoping to settle on a budget by the end of the week, and by all signs that won’t include a carve out to authorize online gaming.

That doesn’t mean Payne’s wishes to decriminalize the market and provide safeguards and consumer protections won’t happen in the future.

In fact, bringing poker online by way of a budget provision could have fueled anti-gambling groups and caused future headaches. Legalizing in more traditional means should create a stronger foundation for the industry should Pennsylvanians wish to end iPoker prohibition.

Payne says he isn’t trying to expand gaming, but simply regulate and profit from the illegal online market presently in operation.

“Millions of Americans, including Pennsylvanians, participate in illegal online gaming where no regulation currently exists,” Payne said in his fall newsletter. “These players, and our minors, are currently at risk for fraud and abuse by unlicensed and unregulated offshore gambling sites.”

“We’ve been talking about needing additional revenue for five months, and this is a viable option that would benefit the state and our communities,” Payne added.

Though Payne’s Gaming Oversight colleagues agreed online gambling is a viable option for the state, the majority of his Senate counterparts hold contradictory views. Online gaming advocates will be forced to wait until at least 2016 to see if Payne can persuade more backers in the Pennsylvania Capitol.

Comments are closed.