Pennsylvania Online Gambling Still Possible, as Proponent John Payne Announces Retirement

January 13th, 2016 | by Brian Corlisse
Pennsylvania online gambling John Payne

Pennsylvania online gambling could still become legalized in 2016, but the lead proponent of such a measure, State Rep. John Payne, (center), is leaving politics at the end of his term. (Image: Jason Farmer/The Scranton Times)

Pennsylvania online gambling is still up for consideration, as Governor Tom Wolf (D) makes his way through the submitted state budget and line-item vetoes for the Commonwealth.

Writing in an opinion piece this week for LancasterOnline.com, State Rep. Steven Mentzer (R-District 97) says the challenge moving forward is finding sufficient funds to pay for Wolf’s programs, and one possible sector is that of Internet gaming.

“Current topics of discussion include increased tobacco taxes, gambling expansion, increases in the personal income tax, and a sales tax increase and expansion,” Mentzer wrote. “I will continue to fight for a fiscally responsible budget that respects the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.”

Internet gambling seems to certainly respect taxpayers, as the new tariff would only affect those who wished to gamble at online casinos.

Mentzer served on the House Gaming Oversight Committee in 2015, along with Chairman Rep. John Payne (R-District 106). Payne has been the leading advocate for online gambling in the Keystone State over the last 12 months.

Payne Announces Retirement

While gamblers looking to play poker and other casino games from the comfort of their own homes through computers and mobile devices will likely welcome Mentzer’s disclosing that Internet gaming is still alive for 2016, they won’t be happy to hear that Payne is preparing to leave Harrisburg.

A longtime champion of Internet casinos, Payne introduced House Bill 649 early last year. The bill would have charged operators between $5 and $8 million per license and mandated they pay a 14-16 percent tax on gross revenue.

The bill was removed from the Capitol on January 5th, but Payne remains committed to bringing casino gambling online in Pennsylvania.

However, his commitment expires come November 30th, 2016.

“While I will miss many aspects of this job, I have decided it’s time to begin a new chapter in my life; one that includes more time spent with my family,” Payne said in a press release last week. “There are still many initiatives I hope to see enacted, and I plan to stay active and continue to serve the citizens of the 106th District until my term ends.”

Lone Wolf

Three days after Christmas, Wolf used his line-item veto authority to strike 77 of the 401 items proposed and approved by the Republican-controlled State Senate and House of Representatives. Wolf’s actions freed money for cash-strapped school districts and human aid agencies.

But the $30.26 billion budget scheme seems to be a long way off from actually being signed by Wolf and reapproved by the State Assembly. The passing of a budget, which is now nearly 200 days late, has now lost some of its urgency, as schools are now receiving their appropriated funds.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association has brought lawsuits against Wolf and the Assembly, saying it’s illegal to withhold school aid during a budget impasse, which both did during the stalemate.

The bipartisan bickering comes down to determining the best way for Pennsylvania to fund its spending. Payne believes iGaming, with an estimated $120 million generated for Harrisburg in the first year, is one perfect solution.

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