As some wise man once said, it ain’t over till it’s over.
Less than an hour after Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives voted against omnibus legislation that included online gambling and daily fantasy sports, they voted in favor of standalone legislation authorizing both activities.
On Wednesday afternoon, the House defeated the 183-page Amendment A08621 to Rep. George Dunbar’s HB 2150 DFS bill, largely over its language authorizing video gaming terminals (VGT) in around 13k bars, clubs and other liquor licensees across the state, a plan that was fiercely opposed by the state’s casino operators, the state lottery and family values types.
Both Republican and Democratic parties huddled their members immediately following the vote, leading to Rep. Rosita Youngblood’s introduction of Amendment A08734, the text of which has yet to surface but reportedly bundles Dunbar’s DFS bill and Rep. John Payne’s HB 649 online gambling bill into a standalone measure.
And then, with absolutely no debate, A08734 passed by a margin of 115 to 80, roughly equivalent to the 116-79 tally that defeated A08621. However, the vote is preliminary, and requires approval from the House appropriations committee and a second vote by the full House on Thursday, as well as a favorable nod from the state Senate and Gov. Tom Wolf‘s signature.
While there remains plenty of hill to climb before online gambling and DFS are officially authorized in the state, the state has only about a week left in which to craft a new fiscal budget, and the revenue v. spending gap remains vast. During Wednesday’s original gambling debate, Dunbar suggested the bill’s online components and a plan to put slots in off-track betting machines could contribute up to $274m annually to state coffers.
Wednesday’s dramatic turnaround left the state’s online gambling fans reeling and likely feeling extra motivated to lobby the hell out of their state pols to ensure they don’t drop the online ball.