Confusion Among Pennsylvania Legislature

pa gaming board

pa gaming boardIn November 2015, Pennsylvania’s House Gaming Oversight Committee passed a bill that would allow online gambling and legalize poker and casino gaming. The bill, HB 649, then moved forward to the House of Representatives for review. The bill provided for slot gaming at the six international airports and at the off-track horse racing venues located in the state. HB 649 also included expansion of land-based gambling in the state, which would give casinos the option for twenty-four-hour liquor licenses as well as the additional slot games. Payne estimated that the HB 649 would bring in approximately $700 million each year. He argued that the fiscal health of the state would be substantially improved with the proposed taxes on the proposed gambling. Pennsylvania’s budget deficit was then estimated to be as high as $2 billion. As an additional benefit, he argued Pennsylvania’s licensing and regulations process would create increased consumer safety.

HB 649 reached the Pennsylvania House of Representatives but did not make it any further. Two other amendments were also contemporaneously before the House of Representatives: A7622 and A7619. Both of these Amendments proposed various expansions of casino-style gaming in off-track betting establishments, airports, bars, and online. A7622, which was also identified as being authored by Payne, specifically provided for online gaming to be permitted in the state of Pennsylvania. As well, it provided for video gaming terminals (VGTs) to be installed in non-casino locations (airports, bars, etc). A7619 was almost identical, unlike A7622, however, it did not include the VGT provisions. A7622 was defeated by a vote of 66-122. A7619 was then considered and that bill was also defeated 81-107. After, it was reported that Payne was listed as the author for A7622 in error and, in fact, he voted against A7622. Payne did not speak before the vote on A7622 but he did speak out in favor of A7619 before that vote, indicating that it mirrored his HB649. He subsequently voted for A7619.

Payne was not successful in passing any of the legislation to support his cause for online gaming and casino style gambling in airports and bars. It may not have been for lack of support. It appears that an error in the labeling of authorship may have resulted in his lack of success. The error in authorship appears to have created substantial confusion for Representatives causing them to vote against A7622 because they thought it was Payne’s non-VGT bill when in actuality the bill was an amendment that was not authored by Payne at all. Then, Representatives, thinking that Payne’s VGT bill would be considered later, voted against A7619 (which was actually Payne’s non-VGTs). The House of Representatives then simply did not address HB 649.

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