Pennsylvania Online Poker Included in House Budget, Senate Unlikely to Approve

December 9th, 2015 | by Kaycee James

Pennsylvania online poker budget impasse

Democrat Governor Tom Wolf is willing to concede with Republican lawmakers on a series of issues including privatizing liquor and wine sales, but the Senate and House can’t seem to agree on legalizing Pennsylvania online poker. (Image:

Pennsylvania online poker and the expansion of Internet gambling has been included in the most recent version of a $30.3 billion budget bill presented by the state’s House of Representatives.

On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee recommended the budget in a party-line vote, all 22 GOP members approving the bill while all 15 Democrats voted against its passage.

First-term Governor Tom Wolf (D) has been at odds with the Republican-controlled state legislature since taking office in January.

The businessman turned governor wants to raise taxes to increase spending on education and start paying down a long-term budget deficit.

House Republicans believe legalizing online gambling would provide substantial revenues through licensing fees and gaming wins to cover Wolf’s allocation hikes.

Pennsylvania has been without a fiscal plan since its new governing year began on July 1.

Wolf Backs Senate

Before poker players in Pennsylvania celebrate what seems like a perfectly timed holiday present, it should be known that the House budget bill doesn’t yet have the favor of its Senate counterpart or the governor.

Instead, Wolf has expressed support for the Senate’s spending plan.

Senate leaders voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $30.8 billion fiscal blueprint on Monday in bipartisan fashion. Included in the bill is a tax increase of over $1.2 billion on Pennsylvania residents.

As consolation for the Republican compromise in taxes, Wolf has agreed to sign legislation that would begin reducing the mammoth public pension benefits system and take steps to privatize liquor and wine sales.

The state currently owns and manages the retailing of liquor and wine.

“Eventually we are judged by our results,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) told reporters. “If you never get anything passed or signed, what good are you?”

The Senate is expected to target the sales tax to generate the additional $1.2 billion, though the chamber didn’t specify whether it would motion to increase the six percent sales tax or add more taxable items.

Impossible Impasse

The Pennsylvania House and Senate have just seven more scheduled session days before breaking for the remainder of the year at the conclusion of activities on December 16.

Unfortunately for those looking to play online poker in the Keystone State, it looks unlikely that the House version of the budget will make its way to Governor Wolf’s desk.

The Senate is willing to raise taxes in order to combat Wolf’s demand to elevate education spending, something House Republicans remain reluctant to accepting. In theory, expanding gambling might cover the expenditure deficiency, but Corman says support for authorizing iGambling doesn’t exist in the Senate.

“We don’t have the votes for that,” Corman said Monday. “I mean, that’s just plain and simple, that won’t happen.”

With the Senate and Wolf seemingly in the same corner, the budget impasse will come down to discovering if House Republicans will fold on their online poker and gambling initiatives and support raising the sales tax.

According to at least one taxation report, raising the sales tax hurts lower income families.

“The biggest beneficiaries of relying on the sales tax … are the top one percent of all taxpayers,” the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center said. “Sales taxes impose a greater tax burden on low- and middle-income families than they do on affluent families.”


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