State Sen. Mario Scavello was recently installed as the chairman of the Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee in the Senate.
That’s the panel that deals with gambling issues in the higher PA chamber. So his forecast on the future of gambling legislation carries more weight than a rank-and-file member.
More from Scavello from CDC Gaming Reports:
“Sometime in March, we’ll have something done and passed in the House and Senate,” said Scavello. “It looks like online gaming has the support to pass. We can look at other expansions.”
The package Scavello is talking about deals with a host of gaming issues in the state, including online gambling, slot machines in airports and at off-track betting parlors, and a fix to a tax on Pennsylvania casinos that benefits their host jurisdictions.
Daily fantasy sports is included in the most recent gaming expansion bill to surface.
The most recent gaming bill in the state — from Senate minority leader Jay Costa — included provisions that might force DFS operators out of the state.
That bill included a $2.5 million licensing fee and a 25 percent tax on revenue. Both those numbers could prevent anyone from being licensed in Pennsylvania — even industry giants DraftKings and FanDuel.
At the same time, the state is facing a budget crunch — revenue is hundreds of million dollars behind. That means lawmakers could try to squeeze every nickel they can out of each separate gaming matter.
It’s not clear that Costa’s bill will be the vehicle for gambling expansion. It seems likely that Senate Republicans — the majority party in the Senate — will either introduce their own bill or put their stamp on Costa’s bill, eventually.
In past iterations of PA DFS regulation, fees for operators were far less onerous than those that appear in the Costa bill.
Last year, efforts to regulate DFS fell to the wayside along with the larger gambling expansion.
While there have been DFS-only bills in the past in PA, it doesn’t appear its future is to go it alone. All of the chatter has gaming issues being dealt with in one fell swoop.
And seeing as the regulation of PA online casinos and daily fantasy sports are fairly similar, it wouldn’t make much sense to split DFS out on its own, at this point.
So proponents of the DFS gaining legal clarity and regulatory oversight in Pennsylvania need to hope the larger gambling expansion isn’t scuttled for some reason.
And seeing as such an expansion was a contentious issue in 2016, even positive words from a top Republican lawmaker don’t make it a guarantee.