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But in a sudden turn of events on Wednesday, the fate of both became tied together in the state legislature.
The PA House of Representatives brought up for consideration H 2150 on Wednesday. That is a recently introduced bill that aims to regulate the DFS industry in the state. It was crafted after a report from the state gaming control board was produced.
The intent was not to vote on the DFS bill on its merits, however. The intent was to add an omnibus gambling expansion bill to the existing DFS legislation, one that had been floating around as a possibility for a year.
The proposed amendment included a number of changes to land-based gaming in the state, as well as authorizing online poker and casino games. (Also, as a sidenote, the bill would allow the state to offer sports betting should it ever become legal at the federal level.)
The amendment passed, 115-80. So, instead of being a standalone bill, the DFS bill is now just one cog in a much larger piece of legislation.
This is actually what happened to an online gambling proposal in PA in the middle of last year, as well. Once a standalone bill, iGaming was lumped in with everything else the state had designs on changing in regards to the gambling industry.
DFS proponents following the proceedings in PA likely weren’t aware how close the bill was to being on thin ice.
At first, a gambling expansion that also would have allowed video gaming terminals at taverns and clubs in the state — outside of casinos — was considered. That amendment, however, was defeated.
Why is that important? It was believed by observers of the legislature that the VGT proposal would have been a “poison pill” for the bill had it reached the Senate. That might have left DFS legalization and regulation in a tenuous spot, unable to cut ties from the rest of the gambling package.
As it stands, the VGT proposal appears to be dead, for now, and won’t slow the progress of DFS regulation.
Momentum for the bill — and indeed the whole gambling expansion package — is full steam ahead, it appears. The House Appropriations Committee was slated to take up the bill on Thursday.
If it wins approval there, it’s back to the House floor, where it would presumably pass given the vote on the amendment. Then it’s off to the Senate, a body that has not considered DFS or the larger gambling expansion package. A Senate committee has looked at online gambling.
DFS regulation has already passed by legislatures in seven states this year, and signed by governors in six, with New York waiting on Gov. Andrew Cuomo. While there are a lot of steps to go and a number of moving parts, Pennsylvania is looking like a decent bet to join those.