The wave of gambling expansion is underway in Pennsylvania. When all is said and done, it will be the largest additions in the 46-year history of the state’s lottery system. Keno, a fast-paced, bingo-style game, went on sale last Tuesday at approved Pennsylvania Lottery retailers. The expansion is possible under Pennsylvania’s 2017 gambling law. Keno is the first step in a two-month strategy that is designed to increase state revenue that already nets $1 billion annually for senior programs. What is available now for PA player With wagers beginning at $1, Keno involves players ages 18 and older choosing up to 10 numbers between 1 and 80. A computer randomly draws 20 winning numbers. The more matches players have, the more they can win. Players will be able to watch the drawing results on big-screen monitors at about 500 locations across the state. There are more on the way in the coming weeks. The state expects to reach 2,000 or even 3,000 within the next two years. Additionally, numbers display on animated screens on the Keno page at palottery.com. lThe website also includes a list of locations offering the game. Keno results are also available using the lottery’s mobile app. Keno expected to set off a chain reaction Within the next few months, the gaming landscape of the Pennsylvania Lottery will be vastly different than it has been for decades. Lottery Executive Director Drew Svitko expects consumers to be able to use their smartphone and computers to wager through animated games in a month. And by late June, they will be able to place bets on Xpress Sports. These types of bets include simulated football games and auto races that will air on restaurant screens. According to Svitko, Pennsylvania will be the first state to offer such a game, which has been popular in Europe. The state lottery will soon afford players the opportunity to set up online accounts and place wagers on 10 to 15 online games. These will be unique titles not offered in brick and mortar retailers. Lotto revenue expected to spike The lottery is not axing any of its existing games. Nor is it eliminating any of its 9,200 retailers that people use to play them. This wave of expansion, Svitko said, will only pad the dollars raked in by the state. After a decrease in lottery revenue last year, this year’s numbers are already ahead of the curve. Lottery officials expect $4.2 billion in sales and $1.1 billion in profits for the fiscal year. This money goes toward helping seniors with costs of things like:
Prescription drugs
Rent and property taxes
Transportation services
In-home assistance As part of that growth, Keno is expected to add about $27 million to profits in its first year. Meanwhile, Xpress Sports will chip in $13 million. Online games should contribute $30 million. Why are these games being rolled out The short-term plan is part of the state’s ongoing effort to modernize and attract new players while also bolstering state revenue. “These games are meant to appeal to a new audience,” Svitko said. “These are a lot closer to a game like Candy Crush than what people are accustomed to in a game like Powerball. These are meant to be engaging, entertaining, relevant games. … We have fewer young people playing now than we would like.” Svitko said Keno, iLottery, and Xspress Sports will carry the Pennsylvania Lottery into the “modern gaming era while generating essential new funds to benefit older Pennsylvanians.”

For the past two months, Pennsylvania casinos and their iGaming partners waited patiently for a clarification on the all-important matter of “skins“, a term that refers to how many iGaming websites one casino can operate under a single license. Parx Casino argued that casinos should only have one site per license. Meanwhile, global iGaming firm 888 argued that PA casinos should be able to feature multiple sites under one license. This past week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) provided clarity on the matter via a press release. PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole addressed the issue as part of the board’s update of its temporary regulations governing iGaming when it launches later this year: PGCB statement is clear…to a certain extent O’Toole’s quote would lead one to believe that Pennsylvania casinos could operate multiple iGaming websites with a single license. The phrase “no limitation” is the driving force here. At first read, it seems to indicate that Pennsylvania’s online gambling industry could resemble what we see in New Jersey. In the Garden State, casinos can operate up to five casinos with one license. However, the confusion comes later in the quote when O’Toole says that the site must clearly present the licensee’s branding. In other words, an online gambling website run under Mount Airy’s license must feature Mount Airy’s branding. Websites could feature dual branding The “must be branded in a manner that makes it clear that it is offered on behalf of the slot machine licensee ” phrasing presents a sort of hybrid skins model. Under this, a casino can run multiple sites as long as those sites reflect the casino’s branding. The reason this format could be considered a hybrid is because it makes a nod to Parx’s argument that the site should only push the casino’s brand. However, it also considers 888’s argument that a casino should be able to operate multiple sites and leverage its partner’s brand power. In a practical sense , this most likely would result in URL’s that would feature both the casino’s name and the operator’s name. For example, 888.mountairyonlinecasino.com. For comparison’s sake, New Jersey’s Golden Nugget Casino runs four online casinos via its one license. These are:
www.GoldenNuggetCasino.com
nj-casino.goldennuggetcasino.com
betfaircasino.com
playsugarhouse.com. The first two domains are Nugget-centric. They feature the name of the casino and nothing else. The second two, Betfaircasino.com and playsugarhouse.com, feature URL’s that reflect the partner operating under Golden Nugget’s license. Based on what O’Toole said in his “clarification” quote, there’s a good chance that we won’t see an URL mentioning only the casino’s partner’s name. However, the PGCB hasn’t clarified this point. Ttherefore, nothing can be concluded with certainty.

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:
Fanduel
DraftKings
DRAFT
Fantasy Football Players Championship
Boom Fantasy
Fastpick
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.

Having plans fall through doesn’t usually cost you $50 million. However, that’s exactly what happened when Foxwoods Development Corporation (FDC) took a one-third share of the development group, Philadelphia Entertainment & Development partners, who paid a $50 million licensing fee for one of two casino licenses made available by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) in 2006. The casino never materialized and now FDC and its partners are fighting to get their $50 million back, a fight that took a positive step in their favor earlier this month when a federal judge sent the group’s case back to the bankruptcy court that initially ruled the licensing fee couldn’t be refunded. How Foxwoods ended up where they are FDC is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, the group whose Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut is the second-largest in the United States. They, along with other investors, paid for a casino license in 2007. Over the next four years, they, along with their partners, bounced between casino locations and owners. The original plan was to build the casino in South Philadelphia. However, local pushback forced them to pivot to downtown Philly. They redoubled their efforts by bringing in famed developer Steve Wynn, who wanted to move the casino back to South Philly. Wynn couldn’t get the job done. He later exited the project. The development group hired Harrah’s Entertainment to do what Wynn couldn’t. Unfortunately, Harrah’s missed a crucial permit deadline and, like their predecessor, withdrew from the project. The development group continued to miss deadlines and, eventually, their license was revoked in 2010. Bankruptcy court, district judge rule against Foxwoods FDC and their partners were determined to get their licensing fee back, so they filed for bankruptcy on April 1, 2014, in the hopes that the bankruptcy court would return the fee. At that time, Philly Live reported, the development group owed more than $85 million to lenders and law firms. The bankruptcy court did not concede the $50 million refund, leaving the development group in deep debt. Foxwoods and their partners continued to push their case through the legal system. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph E. Leeson, Jr., upheld the bankruptcy court’s decision. Appeals court reverses decision The Foxwoods saga took another turn earlier this year when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed Leeson’s decision. The court gave Lesson the option of keeping the case for himself, Philly Live reported, or sending it back to bankruptcy court. Leeson chose to send the case back. The issue is “fraudulent transfer” When the case goes before the bankruptcy court, there will be another review of the principle of fraudulent transfer. This principle has two aspects to it: actual fraud and constructive fraud. Based on an analysis from Irvine, CA, law firm Cadden & Fuller, constructive fraud boils down to one of two circumstances: the debtor (Foxwoods) pays for something that doesn’t have equal value to what they paid, or the debtor isn’t able to pay their debts because of the payment. Foxwoods’ argument would seem to be that of constructive fraud. Either they believe the casino license wasn’t worth the $50 million they paid or that the payment is what made them unable to pay their outstanding debt.

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.

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.

March was a huge month for Pennsylvania casinos. In fact, combined revenue across the state’s 12 gaming properties exceeded $300 million for the first time ever. The record-breaking figures were released by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Tuesday. They showed gross table games revenue were down slightly from $79,545,431 in March 2017 to $79,165,791 last month. However, combining the table game revenue numbers with earlier reported March slot machine revenue of $221,350,220 brought total gaming revenue up to $300,516,011. This represented a 3.8 percent increase over the $289,529,578 reported last March. March has consistently been a big month for PA casinos. In fact, the previous monthly high for total gaming revenue of $296,718,018 was reported in March 2013. Parx leads PA casinos once again Parx Casino continued to set the pace. It posted $54,635,233 in total gaming revenue throughout the month to top all 12 Pennsylvania casinos. The Philadelphia-area casino’s numbers represented a 9.9 percent increase over the same month last year. Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem held on to the number-two spot. This despite its total gaming revenue dipping 3.31 percent from $48,369,570 in March 2017 to $46,770,619 last month. Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh saw the biggest monthly gains. It’s total gaming revenue jumped from $30,199,493 in March 2017 to $33,546,172 last month. The 11.08 percent increase helped Rivers Casino rise up to third place among PA’s 12 casinos in terms of total gaming revenue. Valley Forge on the rise The Philadelphia area’s Valley Forge Casino Resort continues to post gains. This after paying the state’s $1 million fee to drop requirements that limited casino customers to hotel guests, membership holders and patrons of other resort amenities in November of last year. The casino resort saw total gaming revenues jump 10.54 percent from $10,471,788 in March 2017 to $11,575,606 last month. The gaming control board also approved the sale of Valley Forge Casino Resort to Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corporation earlier this month. Boyd first announced plans to buy the property for $280.5 million last year. Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos Mountains region saw the biggest drop in terms of total gaming revenue compared to March last year. It’s total gaming revenue dropped 5.88 percent from $16,466,470 in March 2017 to $15,497,865 last month. More than $128 million in taxes collected The state continued to be the largest single beneficiary of gaming revenue increases. In fact, total tax revenue collected from table games and slots reached $128,261,552 in March 2018. This number includes $115,518,487 from an average of 25,815 slot machines. Plus, $12,743,065 from an average of 1,268 table games in operation statewide on a daily basis throughout the month. According to PGCB, the majority of the tax revenue collected is used for property tax reduction for Pennsylvania homeowners. All monthly PA casino revenue figures are posted on the board’s web site.

GAN, the international B2B gambling supplier who currently offers games in Parx Casino, announced this past week that Pennsylvania’s expanded gambling regulation and future online gaming industry is part of the reason why the company had a promising first quarter in 2018. What makes this past quarter so significant is that it’s the first time since 2013 that the company has posted gains before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). GAN provided the information in a summary of their quarterly earnings call. The summary included bullet-point highlights of positive developments as well as a lengthy quote from GAN CEO Dermot Smurfit. GAN points to PA gambling expansion, Parx partnership Much of what the company’s earnings report talked about was not related to Pennsylvania. It did make key mentions of what’s ahead for the Keystone State though. Perhaps the most important mention came just before Smurfit’s comments: We know that applications for manufacturers, operators, and suppliers can be submitted to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board this month. Those submissions began on April 1. However, there has yet to be a firm launch date for online gambling in the state. According to GAN’s earnings report, we can expect online gambling sometime between now and the end of the year. The fact that these developments were mentioned in their earnings call indicates that they see PA as an important revenue stream, one that will make investors happy. CEO sees PA online gambling as a massive opportunity Smurfit made a point to note that the PA casino market has huge potential. After all, there are nearly 13 million people will be able to wager via the state’s online gambling launch. More from Smurfit: It’s clear that GAN is excited about the potential that online gambling has in Pennsylvania. They say that the combination of their existing relationship with Parx and the upcoming online gambling launch makes GAN “positioned for substantial growth in regulated real-money Internet gaming in the US following the commencement of Pennsylvania’s Internet gaming market.” A reminder that Parx is the largest and most successful casino in the state.

The Philadelphia 76ers may very well be on the road to winning an NBA Championship. Plus, by the time they get there, fans in the Keystone State could legally be able to bet on them doing it. The team is led by a pair of young stars. Ben Simmons is a 6’10” Australian point guard who is a shoo-in for 2017-2018 NBA Rookie Of The Year honors. Joel Embiid is a boisterous 7’2? second-year center from Cameroon with a personality as big as he is. A host of veteran shooters also helped the 76ers close out the regular season as the hottest team in the NBA. They won 16 straight to move up and grab the three seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Playoffs. In fact, a surprising 52-win season had online sportsbook Bovada giving them the fifth-best odds to win the NBA Finals to start the playoffs. At 15:1, only the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the Western Conference’s top-seeded Houston Rockets, Lebron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Eastern Conference’s top-seeded Toronto Raptors had better odds than the 76ers to win it all. Round 1 to the 76ers Round 1 turned out to be a rather one-sided series for the 76ers. They blew through the Miami Heat in five games to push through to the NBA’s Eastern Conference Semifinals this week. Now, Bovada has them as an even bigger favorite to win the title. In fact, the money line on the 76ers to win the NBA title has moved down to +850. Only the Golden State Warriors at +105 and the Houston Rockets at +160 are bigger favorites. To put things in perspective, the 76ers were +15,000 to win the NBA championship at the start of the season. The 2016-17 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors were +100. Moneylines and the changing odds of becoming NBA champions might not mean much to most Pennsylvanians today. However, things might change tomorrow, or at least by the time the 76ers reach their goal. Legal sports betting in PA A bill legalizing sports betting inside state lines passed as a part of the comprehensive gambling expansion package in October 2017. However, sports betting isn’t legal just yet. The new law requires some change take place at the federal level first. The US Supreme Court could rule in favor of New Jersey in its case against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). That would force the change. PASPA essentially bans single-game wagering everywhere outside of Nevada. However, should the US Supreme Court rules in New Jersey’s favor, the act would be deemed unconstitutional. Ultimately, that would pave the way for legal sports betting in states including PA. That decision could come any day now. It might take some time for regulators and operators to get legal sports betting up and running in PA. But not too long. PA ready to roll on the sports betting front In fact, back in November, Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Deputy Director of Communications Richard McGarvey told Legal Sports Report it wasn’t the top priority. However, the state planned on being ready to go if and when federal law changes: The state’s 12 Pennsylvania casinos will be the first invited to apply for sports betting licenses and open up sportsbooks. Philadelphia area casinos like SugarHouse, Harrah’s, and Parx will likely move fast to set things up and go after all the potential revenue legal sports betting promises. The 2017-18 NBA Finals are scheduled to run Thursday, May 31 through Sunday, June 17. It’s a tight timeline. However, PASPA could fall within the next few days. Pennsylvania regulators certainly want to get betting up and running as quickly as possible, but betting on this year’s NBA finals in Philadelphia may be a longshot. But, like the 76ers, the odds they will be in a similar boat in 2019 is a very safe bet.

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.

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