Pennsylvania: New Bill to Legalize Gaming Machines

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Pennsylvania, the nation’s number 2 commercial casino state, is pushing forward with new legislation that will legalize slot-like terminals to be placed inside bars, restaurants, social clubs and any other businesses that hold licenses to sell liquor.

The Skill-Based Gaming Machines Debate Revisited

The initiative started by some Republicans in the state Senate seeks to install video-like gaming machines across more than 10,000 venues, on one hand, while placing under regulation or ousting entirely the skill-based gaming machines that became notorious for not paying state taxes, currently available in a wide array of establishments across the state.

The proposed amendment which Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman views as a way to deal with the skill gaming machines placed around pizza parlours, grocery and corner stores and bowling alleys, is also in line with the stance from the governor’s administration, which recently accused the unregulated gaming of siphoning revenues from the Pennsylvania Lottery to the extent of $200 million for 2019.

The debate around the skill machines was heating up recently, as the Pennsylvania Against Illegal Gambling (PAIG) group was focusing on raising public awareness from the dangers imposed by these slot-like gaming terminals.

The fact that they remain outside of regulation not only affects state taxes and takes money away from other regulated gaming businesses, but also allows for operators of such terminals to manipulate the return-to-player (RTP) ratio, as there is no requirement for it be presented, and even no definitive way of knowing the level of return these machines offer to players.

Bill Prospects Unclear

The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, the representative body for the industry, is asking all its members to provide support for the initiative that will give bars and restaurants another source of revenue, to help mitigate the impact of the business closures. The association is urging its members to contact their Senators and personally express their approval for the proposed amendments. The bill faces unclear prospects of being approved, though, as even if it is passed through The Republican-controlled House of Representatives in the Senate, it will still need the signature of St. Gov Tom Wolfe who is a Democrat.

Until this moment, it is unclear whether the casino operators in the Keystone State will support the proposed by the Republicans initiative, as the land-based gaming facilities have a bigger nut to crack at the moment. The gambling venues that have been shut down since mid-March were allowed to re-open by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board effective June 5, yet noone was in a hurry to do that, with Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and the Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington being the first to resume operations June 9.

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