When Pennsylvania Rep. John Payne sits back to watch fireworks with family and friends on Monday, he hopes it is with the knowledge that his quest to license and regulate internet gambling in the state was successful.
Payne, author of a bill that was incorporated into larger gaming legislation passed by the House of Representatives last week, is optimistic that the state budget will be finalized in the next few days.
"We'll be here until 11 p.m. tonight, 11 p.m. Saturday night, and maybe we'll suspend the rules to be here all night," Payne told PokerNews in a phone interview Thursday morning. "I think it will be decided between now and July 4. We've got our fingers crossed."
Through its combined gaming elements that include online poker, internet casinos games, daily fantasy sports, and the addition of slot machines in airports and off-track betting parlors, HB 2150 is estimated to add $266.5 million from licenses and tax revenues for the 2016-17 fiscal year that begins July 1. That revenue is a significant part of the discussion to fund a proposed $31.5 billion budget.
It's now in the hands of leadership from the House and Senate, as well as Gov. Tom Wolf. Payne said there is major local attention on the budget being worked out quickly after dragging on for nine months last year.
"There's a lot of effort being put into getting a budget package done," Payne said. "No one wants to see a repeat of last year's budget fiasco. There's a lot of pressure to get the package together, and to get revenue without raising taxes on the people."
Payne thinks having his bill to license and regulate iGaming for Pennsylvania's 12 casinos incorporated into the daily fantasy sports bill, which passed the House by a 114-85 vote on June 28, is a positive for its prospects.
"It has a little bit of everything but the kitchen sink in it," Payne said. "There's supporters of iGaming, supporters of off-track betting, supporters of daily fantasy sports, supporters of slots at airports, and each one is picking up votes with some members. Normally, when you can get a coalition of people together and create a package, it strengthens a bill."
This has been a long time coming for Payne, who introduced the bill last year and got it passed through his House Gaming Oversight Committee. Payne has announced he is retiring on Nov. 3, making this his last chance to move the legislation.
"Obviously, I'm very pleased," Payne said. "I'm proud of how thoroughly our committee vetted the issue, so that members of the committee could go on the House floor and explain the bill to their friends and colleagues. It feels good — vindicated."
*Photo courtesy of Payne's Facebook page.