New numbers from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) indicate the state’s 12 casinos grossed 0.2 percent more in April 2018 than they did in April 2017. While April’s growth was slight, it marks two months in a row that PA slots revenues have risen over the previous year. Breaking down the numbers: Winners and losers Of the 12 casinos in the state, only four posted gains over April 2017:
Valley Forge Casino Resort: 9.07%
Presque Isle Downs and Casino: 7.22%
Parx Casino: 6.04%
Rivers Casino: 4.32% Parx and Rivers are two of the top three revenue earners in the state. The April bottom line benefited from this fact, as the two casinos steadied the losses sustained by other properties. In fact, April marks the second-straight month that all four casinos on the list have posted positive numbers. In March, the gains were as follows:
Valley Forge: 13.64%
Presque Isle: 11.53%
Rivers: 9.45%
Parx: 9.01% Meanwhile, the other eight casinos struggle through April. Here’s a rundown of their slots revenue losses:
Lady Luck Nemacolin: -10.70%
The Meadows Casino: -8.36%
Mohegan Sun Pocono: -3.46%
Harrah’s Philadelphia: -3.05%
Hollywood Casino: -1.93%
Sands Casino Resort: -1.01%
SugarHouse Casino: -0.90%
Mount Airy Casino Resort: -0.40% The good news for the Mohegan Sun, Sands, and SugarHouse is that their March gains trumped their April losses, putting them ahead in slots for the past two months. The good news about the April numbers is that they represent two consecutive months of positive YOY growth. According to PGCB Communications Director Doug Harbach, the average swing in YOY slot revenue ranges from 2 percent growth to 2 percent decline and has been steady for the past few years. Looking ahead: How will online slots play out? A downturn of brick-and-mortar revenue isn’t out of the ordinary during January and February, as inclement weather tends to roll in and keep people away from casinos. As the weather warms and steadies out, slots revenue should level off and continue an upward climb. However, once the bad weather rolls around next year, brick-and-mortar slots revenue may take an extra hit from the online slots that presumably will be available in January and February. New Jersey is a good test case for this, as January and February were tough months for land-based casinos as historic rainfall and storms barrelled through the state. However, the losses casinos experienced weren’t as bad as they could be. Gamblers who didn’t want to brave the bad weather stayed and home and gambling on New Jersey’s online casinos. The revenue from those online gamblers tempered Atlantic City’s losses. Online slots act as an extra source of revenue but, when it comes to temperamental New England weather, the extra online revenue sources act as insurance against anything that would keep people out of land-based casinos.

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., 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 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.

The first daily fantasy sports contests with state government oversight went off in Pennsylvania last weekend. Pennsylvanians may have been playing daily fantasy sports contests in gray market for the past few years. However, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) sent out a press release this week announcing government oversight of the contests began over the weekend. Pennsylvania lawmakers made the games legal as a part of a major gaming expansion legislation package passed in October 2017. According to the board, the daily fantasy sports contests marked the first official roll-out of new forms of gaming made legal under the legislation. Online casino, online poker, and online lottery sales were also made legal in the gaming expansion. The Pennsylvania Lottery plans to launch online lottery sales this month. However, with the regulatory and licensing process still ongoing, the state’s first online casino and online poker sites are not likely to launch until the fourth quarter of the year. Legal fantasy sports launches Fantasy sports contests involve participants competing against one another by drafting a team of pro athletes. Participants earn points based on the statistical performance of the actual players in real-life sporting events. Daily fantasy sports take place over a finite period of time. However, traditional fantasy sports are often conducted over an entire season. Contests are run like tournaments. The top point-earning teams winning the largest pieces of a prize pool made up of entry fees after the operator takes a cut. Under the new gaming expansion laws, Pennsylvanians 18 years of age or older can now legally participate in fantasy sports contests. However, they can only do so with approved operators. Gaming board executive director Kevin O’Toole said the following operators have been approved:
Fantasy Football Players Championship
Boom Fantasy
Sportshub Fantasy sports: Now regulated and taxed O’Toole said fantasy sports operators are paying taxes in PA. Plus, local players are enjoying the benefits that government oversight of the games can provide: The tax on fantasy sports operators’ adjusted revenue is 15 percent. The state began charging it on Saturday, April 28. All taxes collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue from fantasy sports operators will go into the state’s General Fund. O’Toole said local players who may have played fantasy sports contests in the past probably didn’t notice any change: More information regarding fantasy sports regulation in PA is available on the board’s website. In addition to fantasy sports regulation in PA, the board oversees all aspects of the state’s casino industry. There are 10 stand-alone and racetrack casinos in PA, along with the two smaller resort casinos. According to the board, these operations generate approximately $1.4 billion in tax revenue annually. The majority of the money goes to property tax reduction for PA homeowners.

It now seems the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) needs to make some important decision. Last week’s round of mini-casino auctioning went without a bidder, and now it appears that the state may not sell all 10 of these licenses. As a result, the PGCB faces two roads diverged in a wood. What is a mini-casino? A scaled-down version of traditional casinos, mini-casinos feature 300 to 750 slot machines. Some may include up to 30 table games. This subsect of the PA gaming industry became an option after Pennsylvania passed a satellite casino law last October that allowed for 10 new casinos to fall into a new category of the gambling establishment: Category 4. Licenses for these properties would cost $7.5 million. Adding 30 table games would cost an additional $2.5 million. However, these satellite properties cannot be located within 25 miles of existing Category 1, 2, or 3 properties. Timeline leading up to latest no-show bids As the first rounds of auctions neared, over 40 percent of the 2,560 municipalities in Pennsylvania opted not to participate. That included most of Philadelphia and all of Lancaster County. The consensus, particularly in Philadelphia, was a fear of oversaturation of casinos. In January’s first two auctions, Penn National ($50.1 million) and Stadium Casino ($40.1 million) beat out a combined six other bidders to obtain mini-casinos. Three bidders participated in the Feb. 8 auction, with Mount Airy Casino coming away with the license for just shy of $21.9 million. Parx Casino ($8.1 million) landed a mini-casino during the Feb. 22 auction, followed again by Penn National, which spent $7.5 million as the only bidder April 4. That was a subsequent auction as the state attempted to sell off the remaining licenses. Interestingly, Penn National has been the most vocal opponent of mini-casino expansion. As the only casino in the central area of Pennsylvania, Penn National was steadfast in its claim that the satellite properties would result in “significant and unique” damage to its Hollywood Casino, according to a 57-page lawsuit against the state that was filed in federal court in January. Yet while the company is continuing to fight to get the satellite casino law overturned, Penn National figured it would still participate in the auctions as a backstop in case its lawsuit is dismissed. Devil you know, right? What happens to the auctions now? The likelihood is high that the auction process stops with five licenses still up for grabs. The PGCB may decide to hold a third and final round of bidding for approved non-casino license holders. Then again, there is strong outside interest to land a mini-casino site. Note that Category 4 licensees are not eligible to participate in online gambling, so that is not an option for mini-casino license holders. Now it is time for the PGCB to assess the situation. The next round of auctions, if they took place, would be open to groups outside of existing casino license holders, in which case the PGCB would predetermine eligibility requirements. Buying out Pennsylvania casinos is becoming a hot ticket. It affords outside companies the opportunity to get in on the ground floor as the world of gaming is due to expand. Still, purchasing these Category 4 licenses will not provide owners to offer such experiences. The logic goes that casinos with higher-category licenses could provide sports betting, et al., but a mini-casino on its own would not have that kind of freedom. To boot, a Cat 4 casino would not have access to any of the available interactive gaming licenses. Basically, if an outside group invested in a mini-casino, that would be all it was investing in. The other option for the PGCB is to shut down the auctions altogether. Half of the 10 mini-casino licenses are still available, and the last auction went without a bidder. Expectations have already been met. Large bids from the first few rounds generated over $120 million. Consider that, had all 10 licenses sold for the base cost of $7.5 million, the result would be $75 million in revenue. The ideal locations for mini-casinos, allowing for buffer zones from existing casinos, have already been taken. And over 1,000 municipalities in the state have opted out of hosting a mini-casino. Available options are slim for the PGCB. Perhaps it is time for it to take the money and run.

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.

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 /

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