News

The $200 Million Question: How Will Gambling Expansion Fund The PA Budget?


Unlike average people, who make a budget based on how much they earn, lawmakers across the country make budgets and then figure out how they’re going to pay for it.

Pennsylvania’s legislative bodies are working through this now, and the implications for PA online gambling are huge.

Lawmakers have approved a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that includes $200 million from expanding gambling. But the House and Senate have yet to agree on, and pass, the gaming expansion bill. And they haven’t figured out how to fund the rest of the budget, either.

$32 billion Pennsylvania budget passed in June

On June 30, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed the state’s 2017-18 budget. Two-step budget processes are common. But the assumption is that lawmakers will get the job done before too much time passes.

Here is how the Morning Call described the passage of the budget:

“But lawmakers passed for now on taking tougher votes on taxes, bond borrowing, gambling expansion and financial transfers that are expected to help cover governmental expenses and the state’s ongoing deficit, now pegged at about $2.2 billion through June 30, 2018.

Those pay-for-it votes won’t come until after the Fourth of July — a two-step play lawmakers have been running with more frequency under the Capitol dome.”

Budget funding disagreements include PA’s gambling bill

Now, it’s 30 additional days later and nobody has figured how to fund that budget.

The word on the street is that the House had a funding plan ready last week. According to industry experts, that plan included new taxes, borrowing against a tobacco industry settlement, and expanding gaming.

The gaming bill, of course, is the most controversial piece. The House is sticking to its guns over video gambling terminals (VGTs) in taverns. The VGT issue is all but guaranteed to kill the funding package when it reaches the anti-VGT Senate.

Budget hurdle is a repeat of 2016

One year ago, Pennsylvania was going through the exact same process, minus 2016’s early-morning vote to approve the budget.

Like this year’s budget, 2016’s spending plan included $100 million in revenue from a gambling expansion bill that was in progress. Funding talks dragged on, and any momentum working in favor of the gambling bill eventually fizzled out.

The Morning Call noted there are many lawmakers quite flustered by the fractured budget process. Some pointed out that the budget needs to be balanced, and the current one should never have passed in the first place.

Most agree that a two-step budget approval process is just about the best the House and Senate can do in a time when Republicans and Democrats are bitterly opposed on many issues.

Image credit: JimCottingham / Shutterstock.com


J.R. has been recognized three times as a winner of the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism contest. Now working as a freelance writer, his work has been featured in a wide variety of online and print publications including Barcelona Metropolitan, Bespoke Post, Our Amazing Norway, the Villages Daily Sun, and Snooth.