A state lawmaker wants to use revenue from PA sports betting to help homeowners cope with financial difficulties related to the coronavirus.
Legislation introduced by Sen. Doug Mastriano would temporarily divert Pennsylvania sports betting revenue to the property tax relief fund.
Pennsylvania taxes sports betting revenue at 36%, the nation’s highest rate. Through February 2020, the state has collected more than $41 million in tax revenue from sports wagering.
“Pennsylvania homeowners already face high property taxes, and the COVID-19 pandemic will only worsen that reality,” Mastriano said. “With a mandated shutdown of businesses that are not ‘life-sustaining,’ many Pennsylvania families find themselves out of work with no income, and have voiced concern about paying their property taxes.”
Other gambling funds already help to offset property taxes. Sports betting revenue currently goes into the general fund.
How PA sports betting revenue could be used
S 1117 would take effect immediately after becoming law.
For the purpose of mitigating the financial impact of the coronavirus on property owners in Pennsylvania, the bill establishes that:
“All sports wagering authorization fees, manufacturer license fees, manufacturer renewal fees and all fees for licenses issued under Chapter 16, and all money collected by the board for violations of this subchapter shall be deposited into the Property Tax Relief Fund.”
The diversion of PA sports betting funds expires after June 30, 2021.
The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee received the bill. It has four co-sponsors.
Bill part of drive to lower property taxes
Mastriano has been trying to lessen the financial strains of property taxes since long before the coronavirus.
He supported S 76, a bill to eliminate the school property tax and shift the burden to increased sales and income taxes.
In Pennsylvania, the state does not collect property taxes. Counties, municipalities and school districts collect the taxes at the local level.
Mastriano wrote a column for a local newspaper six months ago in support of another bill asking for emergency tax relief for the elderly. He asked for “all tax revenues generated from gambling to be locked into doing what it was promised to do.”
Mastriano contends that a former governor pledged that allowing gambling in the commonwealth could effectively end the school property tax. The Race Horse Development and Gaming Act of 2004 established gambling in Pennsylvania.
One problem in diverting PA revenue
Mastriano’s plan depends on sports making a quick comeback.
With the major sporting leagues stopping games in mid-March as a result of the coronavirus, sports betting revenue for Pennsylvania fell sharply in March. Handle fell by 60% month on month to $131.3 million.
In a letter to all Senate members asking for their support of the legislation, Mastriano presented a belief that “there will be a potential uptick in betting” when games return.