Casino tax fix fails to get traction in Harrisburg



Harrisburg--In what could possibly be the final nail in the coffin for a legislative solution this session to the elimination by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court of the local share assessment to be paid by casinos to host municipalities, the House voted to send the bill back to the Senate with additional changes.

The legislation passed the House by a narrow margin of 108-71.

The changes made by the House include gaming expansion allow for iGaming, daily fantasy sports betting, and airport iGaming tablets that would provide the agreed-upon $100 million for the current year’s state budget and also include lifting the six-month sunset on the local shares assessment fix that would amount to a flat $10 million fee to be placed on category 1 and category 2 casinos outside of Philadelphia.

“We made a decision this morning that is in line with what we’ve been saying for over a month: that the House had support for a gaming bill that fixed the local share issue and got us to the budgetary commitment of $100 million,” said House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) Thursday morning after the changes were unanimously approved the by House Rules Committee.

“We hope (the Senate) will concur with that and send it to the governor so we could put both of these issues behind us.”

While Reed noted that he has not yet had discussions with the Senate on whether they agree to the changes, it is what the House has been talking about for months in terms of a gaming fix they will support.

Speculating on what the Senate is likely to do, Senate Republican Chief Counsel Drew Crompton told the media that it’s unlikely the chamber will take up the expanded gaming measure during its one scheduled session day in November.

“We did what we did on gaming and I think that’s all we plan on doing for the rest of the year,” he said.

“We hope that come next year, we’ll have some renewed energy to find the $100 million that we know is still pledged for the ’16-’17 year…we’re not going to have committee process and all those other things likely when we get back (in November) for a day we use for more of an operational day than a legislative day.”

The governor’s office weighed in Thursday on the likely reality of the legislature not getting a gaming bill to his desk before the end of session.

"The governor will continue to work with both Republicans and Democrats to address this challenge for municipalities, and he understands that this revenue is much-needed for important services like police and fire," said press secretary Jeff Sheridan. "He is ready to continue discussions moving forward."

The legislature returns for what are expected to be “token” session days the week of Nov. 14, with the House convening on Monday and Tuesday of that week and the Senate coming in on Wednesday.

The Legislature’s 2015-2016 session is constitutionally required to end on Nov. 30.


Jason Gottesman is the Harrisburg bureau chief for The PLS Reporter, a non-partisan, online news site devoted to covering Pennsylvania government.