Pennsylvania Gaming Expansion Update: What’s Going On?

by Jim Hall

PennsylvaniaWhile Pennsylvania has seemed poised to expand their gambling industry, it seems efforts may have slowed.

The state of Pennsylvania is one that has shown great promise when it comes to the gambling industry. The state pushed their way to the second spot in the United States as the largest provider of casino gaming, coming in second to Las Vegas, but not is seemingly falling flat. Legislators have been working for several years to expand the industry in some way to bring new life to gaming but all efforts seem to have stalled.

Pennsylvania Casinos

Let’s begin with the casinos of the state. The industry as it stands now seems to be at a standstill. The casinos has seen six months of decreasing revenues as far as slots are concerned, but thankfully, the loss was offset by the table game earnings. There are many things to consider that could lead to the state seeing a downturn in their gambling industry.

There is a possibility that new casinos or gaming licenses will be awarded in the future. Regional competition from such states as New Jersey and New York could pull away revenues from the state. The local share tax issue that is connected to slot gaming currently is also a problem and how it will be resolved could dictate revenues for the state as well.

However, in the short term, the main concern is what will happen to the current gambling laws. What changes will be made that will affect the state now. Several plans are currently being considered to bring in more revenues to the state by way of gaming but nothing has been decided upon. This all started as Governor Tom Wolf stated that $100 million would be included in the current fiscal year budget that would be provided for by gaming as well as $150 million for the next fiscal year.

Generating money is a must but how the current casinos will be impacted should also be considered. The gambling expansion needs to bring about new revenues and not take away from existing sources. Right now, there are two methods that would create new revenues for the state; video gaming terminals and online gaming.

Online Gambling Discussions

Online gambling has proven in other states that it assists the land-based gaming industry. In Pennsylvania, it seems all the gaming venues are in favor of online gaming except for the Parx and Sands Bethlehem. If online gaming were to come to fruition in the state, the land-based casinos would earn new revenues as well as the state. However, legislation has been considered for several years now without any movement to become law.

Within the past year, additions to legislation on top of online gambling have led to bills falling to the wayside. Legislators seem to want to pass iGaming legislation but with other issues in the mix, it has proven to be difficult to see any bill move forward.

Video Gaming Terminals

Also under discussion is video gaming terminals. It is believed that VGTs would have a low impact on the casinos of the state. A proposal was introduced on the subject last year and failed but is back again this year. Despite the supposed low impact, casinos and officials of the government are worried about how the gaming machines will affect the land-based venues.

Currently, VGTs are already in operation, illegally, in the state. Those who are for such gaming feel that legalizing the machines will provide instant revenues via taxation. But would these machines hurt the slot industry further?

Only time will tell what the state will do in regards to any form of gambling expansion. It will be interesting to see if legislators are able to come to an agreement and decide on any of the avenues to take in order to expand upon the industry.