The fate of the state’s online gambling bill that sits in the Senate is no closer to being decided, as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced Sunday night that he would let a $31 billion spending bill passed by legislatures on June 30 become law without his signature.
The governor’s announcement came roughly 30 hours before the deadline midnight on Monday even though the Republican-controlled Legislature has not been able to come up with an acceptable funding package. Although Wolf said he believes that Republican majority leaders will make good on their promise to put together a $1.3 million revenue package to help fund the spending bill.
The governor noted that that means “Paying for what has been appropriated must be done with sustainable, recurring and sufficient revenues,” as reported by the Associated Press. He went on to make reference to some of the ideas that have been suggested in particular by House Republicans, saying that simply moving money around, taking out loans or temporary fixes “will not move Pennsylvania forward, nor will it pay for this budget.”
Prior to the Pennsylvania Senate breaking for its summer recess, House Bill 2150 (pdf) was approved in the lower house on June 28 after being rejected by the House earlier. After a controversial component of the proposed legislation was removed an omnibus gaming reform bill was then passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The bill was then sent to the Senate for consideration where it currently remains. In addition to allowing online gambling in the state, the proposed legislation would expand the number of slot machines and regulate daily fantasy sports. If the bill meets with success in the Senate the governor would still have to sign off on it. One thing the bill has in its favor is the fact that many believe in order for the state’s 2016/2017 budget process to be complete, money from some form of gaming expansion is necessary, which in light of the governor’s announcement on Sunday, appears to be even more the case.
Current discussions concern a $1.3 million package heavily reliant on casino-style gambling expansion and a $1 per-pack cigarette tax increase. If passed, Pennsylvania would be just the fourth state to make internet gambling legal. Lawmakers say that expanding gambling to the internet could produce immediate lucrative license fees, however, the Senate and House have yet to agree on the legislation, let alone make it to the governor’s desk.