DeLissio: We are rolling the dice with our state budget

Over the past several years there have been a few attempts to expand gaming in the commonwealth.

No bill had made it successfully through both chambers and to the governor’s desk until H.B. 271.

The revenue gap of over $1.5 billion was the impetus to craft a bill that could provide some recurring revenue for the state, since so many of my colleagues are averse to considering raising any type of tax. For example, the personal income tax was last raised in 2004, and we still do not have a severance tax on Marcellus Shale.

H.B. 271 is what I refer to as an “everything and the kitchen sink” bill. Where previous bills addressed one or, maybe two, gaming topics, this legislation includes no less than seven different gaming-related expansions and was over 900 pages long. It is not possible to cover all of the details in this commentary; if you have an interest in learning more, please contact your state representative or state senator.

Here is my brief rundown of H.B. 271.

Currently, Pennsylvania does not regulate fantasy sports although many of our citizens participate in these ventures today. Fantasy sports occurs online and like the lottery, you only need to be 18 to play. H.B. 271 now brings fantasy sports betting into the legalized gaming fold.

Interactive gaming (iGaming) permits the casinos to conduct online gaming. iGaming includes slots, poker and table games. The minimum age to play is 21. Again, our citizens are currently participating in illegal iGaming, and this will provide the state with an opportunity to ensure that iGaming is conducted following certain rules and procedures that will safeguard citizens and provide revenue for the state.

If you are leaving on a jet plane, and are either delayed or bored while waiting for your flight, you will now be able to participate in iGaming via internet tablet devices at the airports that choose to participate. 

Currently federal law prohibits sports wagering in all states with the exception of Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware. This legislation requires the Gaming Control Board to promulgate regulations for sports wagering and to authorize licensed casinos to conduct sports wagering only when and if there’s a change in federal law or a federal court decision permitting states to regulate sports wagering is made.

Up to 10 mini/satellite casinos will be permitted in Pennsylvania. A municipality can adopt a resolution to prohibit a mini/satellite casino from being located in their municipality. Such a resolution would need to be adopted no later than Dec. 31, 2017.

Video gaming terminals (VGTs) will now be permitted at truck stops only. Truck stops are defined in the legislation and must meet all of six requirements; including volume of diesel sold, parcel size (no less than 3 acres) with no less than 20 parking spaces for commercial vehicles, have a convenience store and be equipped with a diesel island for fueling commercial vehicles and located on property not owned by the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Counties that currently have a casino have the opportunity to opt out of VGTs by Dec. 31, 2017 so that no VGTs may be placed in that county. Philadelphia County has that opportunity to opt out of VGTs. I will be contacting my councilman urging Philadelphia to opt out, and I recommend that you contact your councilman with your thoughts on the matter. Montgomery County opted out today.  

Also, the state Department of Revenue is now authorized to operate iLottery and internet instant games. 

It is anticipated that the proceeds from expanded gaming will contribute about $238,000,000 into the General Fund for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

I think that amount is a stretch and truly a “roll of the dice.”