After cruising through the House Gaming Oversight Committee last November, HB649, Rep. John Payne’s bill, appears to have been overlooked on Tuesday in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Legislators instead voted down two amendments that would expand casino-style gambling to off-track betting parlors, airports, bars, and casino-run websites.
A7622, the first amendment, which was soundly defeated by a vote of 66-122, was a gaming reform bill that in addition to online gaming would bring video gaming terminals (VGT’s) to non-casino locations, among other things. While VGT’s are supported in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, the same cannot be said for the state’s casino interests or the Senate. Considered second was A7619, almost identical to the first, with the exception that VGT’s were not included. Although not beaten down as badly as the other, it was still defeated by a vote of 81-107.
Things got confusing when Rep. Payne began to speak about A7619, his amendment. There may have been an error in Payne being listed as the author of both A7622 and A7619, because he voted against the former, dubbed the “Mustio Bill” for its author, Rep Mark Mustio. Payne only supported A7619, which he said mirrored his HB 649. The error in authorship appears to be to blame for the confusion, according to the Online Poker Report. It seems as though several lawmakers that supported VGT’s apparently gave A7622 a thumbs down because they were under the impression that it was Payne’s no-VGT amendment rather than Rep. Mustios’. Later, expecting that their VGT bill would be reconsidered, the legislators voted against A7619. In spite of all the confusion, they were right about that; both amendments will be reconsidered somewhere down the road.
Payne’s HB649, an effort to try and slash the deficit without having to raise taxes, would provide slot gaming for the state’s six international airports in addition to the off-track horse-racing venues.
While the bills that were defeated on Tuesday would have devoted just over $300 million to the pensions of public school employees, nothing guarantees that the provisions would deliver that amount. Had the amendments been successful Tuesday, Pennsylvania would have been the fourth state to permit online casino-style gambling, in addition to the licensed casinos in the state stationing slot machines at off-track betting parlors and six international airports.
For now, the bills’ supporters will have to wait to see what happens the next time they are up for consideration.