The Pennsylvania Supreme Court gave state lawmakers four more months to find a proper solution to a casino tax issue that has left more than $140 million in tax payments to host municipalities in limbo.
Last year, the state’s highest judicial body ruled that an agreement signed between the twelve casinos operating within Pennsylvania’s borders and host communities back in 2006 was unconstitutional. Under said agreements, the gambling venues were to pay a 2% tax on full-year gross slot revenue or the minimum amount of $10 million.
A decade after the deal was sealed, Mount Airy Casino Resort brought the matter to court, claiming that smaller casinos have been treated unfairly and unevenly for years. The Supreme Court sided with the Mt Pocono-based gambling venue, issuing a decision that blocked the agreement and ordering that the Legislature find a proper solution to the issue.
The court ruling came in September 2016 and lawmakers had 120 days to solve the matter. Several Pennsylvania officials argued that the deadline was rather unrealistic, particularly given the fact that the state Legislature was entering the final days of its 2016 legislative session.
Legislators indeed failed to meet the deadline, although efforts were put for a budget fix to be implemented. In October, the Pennsylvania House passed an omnibus gambling bill that proposed a possible solution. The proposed legislation also contained provisions for statewide gambling expansion, including the legalization of online gambling and daily fantasy sports. The bill did not make it to a Senate vote.
Under the most recent Supreme Court ruling, the Pennsylvania Legislature will have up until May 26 or four more months to provide a permanent fix to the tax issue, one that will be treating all involved parties evenly.
iGaming Legalization Efforts
Many believe that 2017 will be the year when the state finally legalizes online gambling. The topic has been on the Legislature’s radar screen for years now. A significant and historic progress was made late last year when, as mentioned above, a gambling expansion bill that included iGaming among its provisions passed a House vote. The legislative piece did not make it to the Senate but talks that the efforts will be rekindled started with the beginning of the new year.
Sen. Mario Scavello, a key lawmaker from the Keystone State, said earlier this month that it all shows iGaming will finally gain the necessary legislative support. According to the lawmaker, who currently represents Pennsylvania’s 40th Senate district, an online gambling legalization bill may be passed in the first quarter of the year.