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It’s better to be lucky than good. Last month, the $457 million Powerball winning ticket was sold in Lancaster County. The winner will collect the largest jackpot ever won in the state, according to Lottery Executive Director Drew Svitko. “It seems that St. Patrick’s Day has brought some great luck to this fortunate Powerball player and we are anxious to meet our big winner or big winners,” Svitko said in a Philadelphia Tribune article. According to the Philly Trib article, the winning ticket was sold at a Speedway gas station in Manheim. The municipality is a small town about 90 minutes outside of Philadelphia. PA Lottery expecting more big wins this May It seems that 2018 will be an unprecedented year for the Pennsylvania Lottery and the $457 million Powerball winner has nothing to do with it. This May, the Lottery will roll out online versions of some of their games. Additionally, there will be video lottery terminal games (VLTs) at Pennsylvania bars. These VLTs are different than the video gambling terminals (VGTs) included in the gambling expansion bill. VLTs are strictly PA Lottery machines, whereas VGT’s will offer table games and slots of various types and are only allowed to be installed in certain facilities. Also, there is an opt-out list for VGTs. Perhaps the main reason why VLTs differ from VGTs is the threat they post to PA casinos. VLTs aren’t necessarily going to pull someone away from a brick-and-mortar casino. However, VGTs could coax gamblers away from land-based casinos as well as future satellite casinos slated to be built. The future of PA Lottery: draw, Keno, scratchers, and virtual sports While the PA Lottery won’t be launching any games that state residents can access via a computer, phone or tablet, there are plans to expand beyond terminals found in bars. The line-up of gambling options includes draw games, Keno, scratchers, and virtual sports, each of which has their own nuances. There is no indication as to how similar online and land-based games will be. For example, at the time of publishing, online Powerball and MegaMillions were not slated for launch this May. Also, the scratch-offs that people can buy at gas stations and convenience stores any number of retail locations may not be congruent with what you can access online. Other factors to keep in mind:
You have to be 18 years old to play
Credit cards are prohibited at iLotto terminals
You can add yourself to a five-year self-exclusion list
Keno, scratch-off and draw games are coming in May
Virtual sports will launch in June on VLTs All regulations and timelines are based on information available at the time of publishing. However the rollout takes place, Pennsylvania Lottery Spokesperson Gary Miller said he anticipates that the variety of games available to players will increase their interest in the lottery. “We anticipate that by attracting new players and broadening their awareness of lottery games, it will help to grow sales of traditional games,” Miller said. In the meantime, with no winner coming forward to collect that Powerball prize yet, it will be a race to see which comes first: a name of a new multi-millionaire or the launch of Pennsylvania’s online lottery.

Conjecture about the upcoming May and June iLottery launch has been feverish. The Pennsylvania Lottery’s recent release of some of its regulations cooled that speculation though. These regulations don’t provide a tremendous amount of clarity, but they do temper speculation. They do so by narrowing the range of possibilities of what the lottery’s online products will look like. Also, the regulations are labeled “temporary”, which means they’ll most likely change in the future. The regulations appeared on The Pennsylvania Bulletin’s website this past Friday. Lottery games will not resemble casino games Amid the rather dry set of rules and restrictions included in the regulations for iLottery, there are two sentences that provide a decent amount of insight into how the games will look once they’re live. First, the regulations make it clear that the lottery’s online games will not resemble casino games. Here’s the exact wording: In other words, the lottery, as the rules are written now, is an entity which will offer various games unrelated to online casino games in the way that they function. It’s conceivable that there could be a poker-themed lottery game that doesn’t violate the casino look-alike rule. Now, this rule by itself doesn’t offer a tremendous amount of clarity. The very next sentence in the regulations, however, describes what an “instant win” game will look like: While the document doesn’t list definitions of any other types of games, we do know that the lottery’s’ offerings will go beyond instant-win games because, earlier in the document, they mention “other lottery products offered through iLottery” that aren’t of the instant-win format. Whichever games launch, those games will be available at iLottery terminals in bars. At some point, games will be available on phones, tablets and computers. Other possibilities for iLottery Initially, it was thought that the lottery would release the following formats of online games:
Keno
Instant win
Draw games
Virtual sports The first three games were scheduled to launch in May with virtual sports debuting on VLTs in June. The latest information from the Pennsylvania lottery indicates that instant win games will be available at launch. Whether the original plan of making the others available by June is up in the air.

If there was any confusion before this past week about online casino skins, Pennsylvania lawmakers cleared it up quick. Reps. Jason Ortitay and Rosita Youngblood sent a letter to Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) Chairman David M. Barasch explaining the intent of the online gambling portion of the state’s gaming laws. Ortitay, the man who sponsored the bill, did not mince his words when describing his position on whether or not multiple companies (skins) should be able to use a casino license to operate in Pennsylvania. Letter adds clarity to debate between casinos The matter of skins goes back to PA legislation about PA online casino licenses. As casinos explore new ways to generate revenue, utilizing their license to strike up partnerships with multiple online casinos — and, therefore — multiple iGaming websites — would generate income. 888.com, a popular global online gambling operator who has a partnership with Mount Airy Casino, sent a letter earlier this month to the PGCB defending the right of casinos to hire multiple operators to run websites under one license. Their argument focused on two main factors: the success of other markets who’ve allowed multiple skins and the brand power they can bring to Mount Airy. To their first point, New Jersey is a sterling example of how multiple skins have worked well for land-based casinos. The state has 25 online casinos distributed across seven casinos. Borgata has 10 casinos under its license and Caesars/Harrah’s have a combined six sites. Parx argued against skins Before 888.com sent in their letter to the PGCB, Philadelphia’s Parx Casino voiced their support of limiting casinos to one skin per license, meaning each casino would operate one site that would implement the casino’s branding. Parx’s argument took the side of Pennsylvania’s workforce, noting that allowing multiple skins would mean that companies that aren’t based in Pennsylvania would be able to make money from the contracts they have with PA casinos. An influx of out-of-state companies would mean in-state candidates wouldn’t have the chance to get jobs in what will be a formidable new industry within state lines. Parx’s objection to multiple skins has the support of Penn National, too, although, in light of the recent letter from Ortitay, it seems the two casinos will be in the minority. Parx isn’t averse to being the squeaky wheel, though. They opposed the state’s gambling expansion bill, too. As one of the state’s top-two revenue earners, limiting gambling to one skin would most likely benefit the casino because it would maintain a somewhat level playing field of revenue. However, if multiple skins are allowed to exist, smaller casinos — and Parx’s Philly-area competitors — could boost their revenue by forming multiple partnerships. In theory, Parx could counter those moves by forming their own partnerships.

Pennsylvania first launched legal casino gambling in 2006 when the first legal slot machines opened up at racetrack and casino properties across the state. Since then, 12 legal gambling operations opened their doors, and a 13th is currently under construction in Philadelphia. The original authorization for slot operations came from Pennsylvania’s Racehorse Development and Gaming Act, which was signed into law on July 5, 2004. In fact, the act created the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to oversee casino gambling in the state. Plus, it also created three categories of casino licenses governing gambling operations. Category 1 licenses are for the state’s existing racetracks. Category 2 licenses for stand-alone casino operations. Category 3 licenses are for resort casinos. In 2010, lawmakers amended the Act to allow for the operation of table games inside all three types of licensed facilities. Plus, in 2017, the state passed a comprehensive gambling expansion package. It authorized the issue of online gambling licenses. Plus, this new set of laws created a fourth casino license category for satellite, or mini-casinos, across the state. Here’s a look at the now four types of land-based PA casino licenses and exactly what each authorizes: Category 1 – Racinos Category 1 casino licenses were designed to help bolster the state’s struggling horse racing industry. The state’s existing racetracks were invited to apply for these Category 1 licenses and turn their horse racing facilities into a combination racetrack/casino known widely as a racino. The state planned to award no more than seven Category 1 licenses. Each license permits the racetrack facility to host as many as 250 table games and 5,000 slot machines. Six racetracks applied for Category 1 licenses and were approved. The list of currently operating Category 1 licensed Racinos in the state includes:
Harrah’s Philadelphia
The Meadows Racetrack and Casino
Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
Parx Casino and Racing
Hollywood Casino at Penn National Racecourse
Presque Isle Downs In order to apply for the license, existing racetracks were required to host live racing for at least two years prior. In order to keep it, live racing must occur at the property at least 100 days every year. If a new racetrack property wants to apply for a Category 1 license, it must host live racing for a minimum of 150 days by its second year. Category 2 – Stand-alone casinos Category 2 licenses are for classic casino operations. There are currently five Category 2 licenses in the state. These are the four that are open:
Mount Airy Casino Resort
Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem
Rivers Casino Pittsburgh
SugarHouse Casino Philadelphia The state granted a Category 2 license to Stadium Casino LLC. This entity is a partnership between Cordish Cos. and Parx Casino and racing owners Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc. They are currently building a casino complex in South Philadelphia’s sports stadium district. The complex should open in 2020. Category 2 license holders can operate the same 250 table games and 5,000 slot machines the state’s Category 1 license holders can. They can also offer major resort amenities, including restaurants, spas, and entertainment. However, Category 2 licensees are not permitted to operate hotels directly connected to the casinos. Although, hotels may be built elsewhere on the property. Category 2 licensees must build casinos in major cities or tourist areas. Additionally, they must be outside of a 30-mile radius of any Category 1 Racino. Category 3 – Resort casinos Category 3 licenses are for resort casino properties. The law authorizes the state to issue three of these licenses. So far, there are only two Category 3 casinos. These are:
Valley Forge Casino Resort
Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin Gaming options are restricted to 600 slot machines and 50 tables. However, these are the only gaming facilities that can have attached hotels. Initially, casino players had to either be hotel guests or pay a fee to use the property’s amenities. However, as a part of the state’s 2017 gambling expansion, Category 3 licensees could pay a $1 million fee to remove the amenity fee provision. Category 3 licensees can now also pay another $1 million to add an additional 15 table games and $2.5 million to add up to 250 slot machines. Category 4 – Satellite Casinos The comprehensive gambling expansion laws passed by PA legislators in October 2017 authorized the issue of up to 10 Category 4 satellite casino licenses These mini-casinos can operate anywhere from 300 to 750 slot machines and up to 30 table games. Properties can add 10 more table games after the first year of year of operation. Satellite casino sites cannot be within 25 miles of one of the state’s existing Category 1, 2, or 3 casino license holders. However, its these license holders that got the first chance to procure the licenses and build the casinos. PGCB is now in round two of auctions for Category 4 licenses. The first round began in January 2018, resulting in four accepted bids:
Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association, LLC, operators of Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, bid $50,100,000 to build in the Borough of Yoe in York County.
Stadium Casino, LLC, the group in the middle of construction on a second Philadelphia casino, bid $40,100,005 to build in Derry Township in Westmoreland County.
Mount Airy #1, LLC, operator of the Mount Airy Casino Resort, bid $21,188,888.88 to build in the City of New Castle in Lawrence County.
Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment Inc., which operates Parx Casino, bid $8,111,000 to build in South Newton Township in Cumberland County.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced this week it will begin accepting applications for interactive gaming platforms on June 4. This Despite the fact the interactive gaming platform providers aren’t sure exactly what they will be applying for just yet. Interactive gaming platform providers are not online casino operators. Instead, these are the companies that provide technology and software platforms for online casinos. Companies like Gamesys, GVC Holdings, NYX Gaming Group, and GAN have been providing software platforms for New Jersey online gaming sites since online gambling launched there in 2013. Clearly, these tech companies will be applying for the right to provide software platforms for online casinos in Pennsylvania. It’s how many sites PA online casino license holders will be able to operate using these software platforms that are still in question. PGCB approves online gaming regulations The gaming board approved two sets of regulations related to PA online casinos and online poker last week. Missing was any language addressing whether or not there will be a limit on the number of online gambling websites licensees can launch. Multiple websites operating under a single license holder are referred to as skins. New Jersey limits the number of skins allowed to operate under a single online gambling licensee to five. Experts say this has helped maximize both operator and state revenue from online gambling. However, representatives from Parx Casino and Racing and Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course have told the board it wants it to limit the number of skins in PA to as little as one. This appears to be a misguided effort to prevent the online gambling market in PA from cannibalizing the existing land-based casino industry. Misguided because most industry insiders agree that allowing multiple skins will be good for the entire industry and help revenue growth across the board. Two PA lawmakers, Reps. Rosita Youngblood and Jason Ortitay, recently said legislators never had any intent on placing a limit on skins. Skins question remains PA casinos have been invited to apply for online gambling licenses beginning April 16. But with the licenses for online slots, table games, and poker costing $10 million for all three or $4 million separately, the casinos will want to know where the state officially stands on the issue of skins before applying. The interactive gaming platform licenses come with a $1 million licensing fee attached. So, clearly online gambling software platform providers want an answer on skins sooner rather than later as well. The board is planning to approve the third set of online gambling regulations at its next meeting on April 2. It is expected the skins issue will be addressed in these new regulations. Key players in the fledgling PA online gambling industry certainly hope so. Gaming platform application a lengthy process In the meantime, there’s time to pour over the extensive 59-page interactive gaming platform application. It’s currently available on the board’s website. A document that size, and steps like fingerprinting and background checks to follow, suggest the process will be a long one. The licensing process for online gambling operators will likely run into September. As a result, it initially appeared online gambling sites could launch in PA by the fourth quarter. However, this June 4 deadline for interactive gaming platform licenses and the lengthy process to follow may change things. In fact, it may even push the state’s online gambling launch into 2019.

The American Gaming Association has come out against a recent proposal by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf that seeks to impose a tax on promotional credits handed out by the state’s casinos. The AGA’s position on the tax In a letter sent to Governor Wolf and key legislators, AGA Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Sara Rayme wrote: “… the American Gaming Association (AGA) has serious concerns with your proposal to tax promotional credits, a crucial marketing tool for casinos that generates millions of dollars in tax revenues for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania each year.” The AGA letter goes on to say that the new tax would likely have the opposite effect the Governor intends; a concern I broached when the governor’s plan was first introduced a week ago. As Rayme notes, “While we appreciate the difficult budget deficit facing Pennsylvania, taxing promotional credits would likely lead to a decrease in tax revenue from casinos – the exact opposite of the intended result.” If Wolf’s plan were adopted it’s likely the value of promotional credits would reach a tipping point, and many casinos would drastically cut down on the amount of promotional credits they give away. As the AGA notes, this could lead to less visitation and traffic in the state’s casinos and therefore less revenue for the state. The letter also makes note of the already high tax burden Pennsylvania casinos pay, as 55% of slot machine revenue and 14% of all table game revenue goes directly to the state. According to the Morning Call, the casinos that would be hardest hit by Wolf’s proposed tax would be AGA members, Las Vegas Sands (Sands Bethlehem), Greenwood Racing (Parx Casino), Rush Street Gaming (Rivers Casino and Sugarhouse Casinos), Penn National (Hollywood Casino), Caesars Entertainment (Harrah’s), and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs). Two of those entities, Las Vegas Sands and Caesars are among the heavy hitters of the casino industry and the AGA. Wolf’s proposal Under Wolf’s promotional tax plan, casinos would have to pay an 8% tax on free slot play and match play coupons and vouchers for table games, essentially charging them to run what have historically been considered marketing campaigns to attract customers. These giveaways are seen as the fuel that brings day trippers to the casinos by bus from as far off as New York City. The AGA likened these promotional credits to grocery store coupons, or a BoGo offer sent to specific customers by a shoe store, although I would have compared them to free appetizers at a bar or some other loss-leader. In the letter Rayme made the following case for promotional credits: “Promotional credit marketing programs in casinos are no different than grocery store coupons, which are widely used to attract more customers to purchase and consume more goods. Direct marketing, which involves sending promotional free play to patrons, is much like a shoe store sending a customer a buy one, get one free coupon. Promotional credits are a critical part of casino marketing because they:
Incentivize customers to increase their real-money wagering and spur increased visitation;
Empower casino operators to respond to market conditions, customers’ preferences and the broader economic environment; and
More than triple the return on investment of issuing promotional credits.” The bigger picture It should also be noted that this fight is taking place amid a backdrop of a budget stalemate between the governor and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that has gone on for over six months. Wolf’s proposal could very well be the governor throwing every idea against the wall to see if anything sticks, since the longer the stalemate goes, the worse it will be for all Pennsylvanians. The legislature is also considering a massive gaming expansion package that would legalize online gaming in the state; add slot machines to select airports and off-track-betting parlors; make structural changes to casino licenses; and perhaps legalize daily fantasy sports in the Keystone State.

A new budget proposal (for the FY 2016/2017 budget) by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf would impose an 8 percent tax on promotional play at the state’s 12 casinos. Based on 2015 promotional play numbers, this new tax would create an additional $50.9 million in revenue for the state. But the numbers don’t tell the entire story. Promotional play vouchers are generally given to active and inactive players in a casino’s database to entice them to visit the casino, and can take the form of a free $10 in slot play (or more depending on the person’s betting habits), or even a $20 match play on table games, where the casino matches a person’s $20 bet. Promotional play is also a huge lure for organized bus trips, where riders receive promotional play dollars that usually exceed the cost of their bus ticket. The governor’s proposal is universally opposed The state’s casinos are unlikely to approve of this new proposal, and are already pushing back against the idea. In response to the news, Las Vegas Sands spokesperson Ron Reese, whose Sands Bethlehem Casino is the biggest purveyor of promotional play coupons, told the Morning Call, “Any time money is taken out, it’s going to affect reinvestment in the property and the creation of future jobs. This proposal is bad for jobs in the Lehigh Valley and beyond. There’s certainly no shortage of taxes already being paid.” Promotional play is already a loss leader for the casino, and a state-imposed tax will likely curtail a casino’s usage of it. With less promotional play, casinos may see a drop in traffic, which would of course lead to a loss in revenue – revenue the state collects 54 percent of when it comes to slot machines, and 14 percent of when it comes to table games. Mohegan Sun’s CEO Michael Bean said as much to the Morning Call, indicating that while only an 8 percent tax, it could be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. “It’s a primary marketing tool for us, but there’s a tipping point,” Bean said. “It’s going to cost us $3.7 million on top of the $125 million we already pay. At some point, if it’s going to be a handicap, you’re going to have to spend less. That’s not good for us or the state.” Essentially, Wolf’s proposal, meant to increase the state’s tax revenue from casinos, could have the unintended consequence of lessening the amount of money the state collects from gaming overall. A letter, signed by all 12 of the state’s casinos and sent to the governor last week said as much: Budget problems and other gaming reforms As noted in the opening, this proposal is for the 2016/2017 Pennsylvania budget, but the state still hasn’t passed its 2015/2016 budget, which was due back in July of 2015, a stalemate that becomes more and more of a crisis with each passing day. The proposal is also strange considering the state legislature is expected to vote on a massive gaming reform bill that would generate far more tax revenue than Wolf’s proposal, and in a less controversial way. Among the state’s brick and mortar casinos, there is a near unanimous consensus when it comes to the omnibus gaming reform bill, HB 649, which includes the addition of slot machines at designated airports and off-track betting parlors, and the legalization and regulation of online gambling. However, HB 649 has been earmarked to fix the state’s state pension deficit, and is not being used to solve the state’s budget stalemate – although there have been halfhearted attempts to shift HB 649 into the budget. According to the bill’s sponsor, Representative John Payne, if HB 649 were shifted to the budget it would lead to the legislature having to vote on tax increases to solve the pension deficit. Payne noted this is something few legislators were likely to do in an election year. Image George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com

Sands Bethlehem has been fined $36,000 by the state of Pennsylvania for alleged underage gambling violations. The Sands violations The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced the violations via its website this week. From the PGCB: No other fines for underage gambling were levied against any other Pennsylvania casino. A fine was issued to Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh for an automatic shuffler error. A report at LehighValleyLive.com had more details on the violations, and other Sands Bethlehem violations in the past: Underage violations from an Adelson property? Given the stance of Sheldon Adelson — the owner of Sands Bethlehem and a variety of other casinos around the world — on online gambling, the fines are pretty ironic. Adelson’s lobbyists and politicians who support the Restoration of America’s Wire Act — a bill to ban online gaming — contend that children could gamble online if it were easily accessible. For instance, from the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling website: That assessment has little merit based on the experiences of the regulated online poker and casino markets in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. Seeing as underage gambling a major point of contention in the fight against allowing regulated online gaming, one would think Adelson’s brick-and-mortar gaming establishments would have a sterling track record on the subject. However, that is obviously not the case. Sands Bethlehem is the only property that is opposed to legislation that would allow Pennsylvania online casinos. The latest on online gambling in PA Online gambling appears to be a part of ongoing budget discussions in the state, although to what extent is unknown. At worst, it appears that online gambling will be considered in the spring, apart from budget talks.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives was expected to vote on a gaming reform package (HB 649) this week that would, among other things, legalize online gambling in the Keystone State. The gaming reforms contained in the legislation would then act as one of the funding components of the 2016 Pennsylvania state budget, which the legislature and Governor Tom Wolf are frantically working on finalizing before Christmas. With the reforms in HB 649, most notably online gambling expansion, the state would garner some $300 million in annual revenue, which is why HB 649 is seen by some as a necessary part of the state’s budget, and a key funding mechanism that could bring the governor and legislature together. Unfortunately, the vote never happened, as a late amendment that added video gaming terminals (VGT’s) to the package was added on Wednesday, and appears to have slowed down the bill in the House. The House adjourned on Thursday without voting on HB 649, and will not return until Saturday, when they will hopefully pass HB 649 and send it on to the Senate — where the VGT amendment will either be removed or act as a poison pill that kills the bill. The VGT problem The reason the VGT amendment (or some other unknown change) could act as a poison pill is, all of this is taking place at lightning speed. Both the Senate and House have proposed budgets in place (the state budget is nearly six months past due; a historic delay), and in addition to reaching an agreement on the budget, the legislature is also busy passing bills that fund the budget. But with time running out, the slightest hiccup, such as the VGT amendment, could upset the entire process. The amendment passed by a whisker on Wednesday, (96-93) in the House, and by all accounts has even less support in the Senate where it will likely be eliminated. The amendment would allow VGT’s in specified private establishments, something the casinos in the state do not support. One possible scenario for HB 649 is for the Senate to remove the VGT amendment from the bill and send their version of HB 649 back to the House for another vote. Considering the small margin by which the amendment was initially passed, the House could simply accept the Senate version in what would likely be another close vote that could go either way. Another option would be a joint committee to quickly craft a compromise and whip up votes in the House and Senate, but there might not be enough time for this to happen. The real concern in the iGaming community is that the Senate might make other adjustments to the bill, such as increasing the tax rate on online gaming operators. This would be very troubling, as there simply isn’t enough time remaining before Christmas break for the two legislative bodies to hash out an agreement on multiple issues, and iGaming would likely be taken off the table and replaced by some other funding vehicle. History of HB 649 HB 649, sponsored by House Gaming Oversight Chair John Payne, and cosponsored by House Gaming Oversight Democrat co-chair Nick Kotick, began as an online gambling expansion bill back in February. The bill had broad support in the House and from the state’s potential iGaming stakeholders, but as the year wore on it was the Senate’s bill (SB 900) that garnered more attention. SB 900 was a comprehensive gaming reform package, and even though the online gambling component was less appealing to stakeholders due to an exorbitant tax rate, the potential revenue from iGaming and the other reforms pushed HB 649 to the sidelines. However, SB 900 never gained traction, and with budget talks at an impasse, HB 649 was resurrected in November — complete with an omnibus amendment package attached with other gaming reforms. The bill easily passed the House Gaming Oversight Committee, was mentioned as one of the funding mechanisms in the House budget, and is waiting for a full floor vote — which will hopefully take place on Saturday. Why HB 649 needs to pass The question a lot of people have is; why does the legislature need to pass HB 649 if it’s going to be included in the state budget anyway? The answer is procedural. Every state (and the federal government) has their own way of doing things, and Pennsylvania is no different. When the Pennsylvania legislature crafts a budget they must explain how much money they need for each department and program and explain precisely where that money is coming from. However, the Pennsylvania budget only appropriates the money to pay for these programs; the funding mechanism, in this case HB 649, must still be passed by the legislature on its own accord. Essentially, the budget outlines where they plan on getting the money from, but the funding source (assuming it’s a new source) must still be passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor.

The gambling expansion bill signed by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf at the end of October includes in it the legislative thumbs-up for sports betting. The catch? The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) doesn’t allow sports betting in Pennsylvania because the state didn’t have it when PASPA was signed. So, in order for sports betting to take place in Pennsylvania, PASPA needs to be overturned. Up until 2017, the thought that PASPA would be dissolved was merely conjecture. That changed when, earlier this year, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear the appeal of New Jersey and its Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. The two parties fought their way through the legal system to the highest court in the land in an effort to bring legal sports wagering to the Garden State. The state and the association are arguing that PASPA violates what’s known as the anti-commandeering principle. This is an aspect of the 10th Amendment asserting that Congress can’t pass laws violating states’ right to pass their own laws. A brief the state filed earlier this year put it this way: “PASPA compels States to regulate—indeed, prohibit—sports wagering and therefore exceeds Congress’s authority.” Will SCOTUS overturn PASPA? Trends say yes Over the past few months, there have been several studies that indicate public sentiment about sports betting has changed, namely in the way that Americans seem to have stopped viewing it as a scourge. The most notable of these studies was one highlighted in a Washington Post article that pointed out that, for the first time since PASPA kicked in in 1993, the public is in favor of sports betting. A few weeks later, think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute indicated that New Jersey will be the first of many states to legalize sports betting once PASPA falls. The organization’s report addressed the anti-commandeering principle. It further noted that PASPA’s initial intent — curbing illegal sports betting by regulating legal sports betting — failed in the midst of a multi-billion black-market gambling economy in the US. “No matter how one feels about sports betting or any other issue in particular, the importance of preserving the states’ right to make their own decisions on these matters should be painfully clear,” the report said. “PASPA has failed to stop the spread of illegal sports gambling, prompted the rise of an enormous gambling black market, increased criminals’ profits, prevented states from raising millions in tax revenue and enacting consumer protections.” SCOTUS will hear the case on Dec. 4 and make a decision by the beginning of next summer. At that point, we’ll know the extent to which PA can apply its theoretical legalization of sports betting.