Pennsylvania, the intersection between gambling and politics

Watching the plight of Pennsylvania House Bill 649 can be a learning lesson both in regards to the business model of many casinos, both online and real, as well as the games played in politics.  In the most basic terms, HB 649 would legalize online gambling in Pennsylvania.  The law was primarily aimed at making Pennsylvania competitive with its´neighbors, mainly New York and New Jersey as well as to get ahead of Ohio who is also undergoing a chaotic political process regarding gambling, and especially online gambling.   Of course, Pennsylvania is also highly impacted by the proximity of much of its population to Atlantic City.

The current version of HB 649 has stalled and mostly been abandoned because of the addition of amendments that allow VGT ( virtual gaming terminals) to be placed at locations other than casinos.   This amendment was a bit of a trick by people who were not originally for HB 649.  While HB 649 would benefit many casinos, by allowing non-casinos to also allow VGT-style gambling, there is fear in the casino industry that overall HB 649 would negatively hurt casinos.  What a better way to defeat legislation than to make it unprofitable for the people it was originally designed to help.   At this point, HB 649 has lost the support of many of its´original supporters and even its´author because of the VGT amendment.

There are now efforts underway to write a new bill similar to HB 649 that can effectively start over without the VGT additions.   The battle really is between politicians who are mainly trying to help casinos ( online gambling), politicians who just want to increase revenues in Pennsylvania ( online gambling with VGTs), and hold-out politicians who are simply against gambling.  In the last round of debates, the politicians against gambling were the ones mainly responsible for adding the VGT amendments because they knew it would cause the politicians supporting the casinos to vote against it.

It has been almost a year since the original HB 649 was introduced and as we reach the end of 2016, it appears the same lines are being formed for next years fight on the issue.  The more Pennsylvania´s Senate delays, the more tax revenue is being lost to other nearby states.