23 Jun

PA House says DFS, Online Gambling “In”, Slots Expansion “Out”

DFS, Online Gambling Bill passes PA HouseHouse politicians in Pennsylvania made it abundantly clear yesterday that they have no desire to see gambling expanded throughout the state via the installment of slot machines at bars, taverns or volunteer fire houses. With that particular amendment dejected, the House immediately approved the combination of the daily fantasy sports bill with an amendment to regulate online gambling.

Originally, there were two separate bills. HB 2150, sponsored by Rep. George Dunbar, aimed to regulate daily fantasy sports (DFS), providing consumer protections, operational licensing and taxation. Similarly, HB 649, sponsored by Rep. John Payne, would have secured, regulated and taxed online poker and casino games.

While the stand-alone DFS bill had high hopes of passage, Payne’s online gambling measure began to sink earlier this year when numerous means of gambling expansions were attached, particularly those that would see slot machines installed at bars, taverns, volunteer fire houses and the state’s 6 international airports.

Thus HB 649 became a complex pile of confusion that the House felt entirely uncomfortable with, resulting in its rejection earlier this month. However, understanding its importance in terms of supplementing an enormous budget deficit, it was decided the measure was worth a second look.

That gave Rep. Rosita Youngblood the opening to script an amendment, closely mimicking Payne’s original HB 649, and proposing it be attached to the DFS bill. However, the House was first required to vote on the DFS bill with both the online gambling and slot machine expansion amendments attached.

The House immediately voted 116-79 against the slot machine amendment yesterday. They took a brief adjournment, then returned and voted 115-80 in favor of the DFS bill with the online gambling amendment (and a few other gaming related refinements).

Present Status of DFS, Online Gambling Bill

In its current state, HB 2150 stands to regulate, license, tax and provide consumer protections for both daily fantasy sports contests (I.e. DraftKings, FanDuel, etc.) and intrastate online gambling (poker and casino games). Several other gaming reforms were included, but we aren’t yet sure how much that entails as the full text of the amended legislation (HB 2150, PN #8734) is not yet available for public viewing.

Upon yesterday’s approval, the bill was sent to the PA House Appropriations Committee – the group that handles the government’s financial intake and expenditures – where it will be scrutinized for fiscal accuracy. It will then be sent back to the House floor for another vote.

If the House approves the appropriated text, the DFS and online gambling measure will move on to the State Senate, and finally the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf.

Probability and Expedience

There’s no specific timeline for these events, but the new 2016-17 legislative session will begin July 1, just one week from now, and Pennsylvania has yet to hammer out a new budget plan. Officials have every reason to get HB 2150 moving through the final stages of enactment as quickly as possible, and considering the sizable budget deficit – one that could be greatly helped by the regulation of DFS and online poker/casino games – odds are high that PA will finally adopt an online gaming regime, sooner than later.