Pennsylvania House Panel Considers VGTs

by Kyle Miller

The House Gaming Oversight Committee of Pennsylvania is reportedly deliberating as it whether or not a proposal should be passed that involves video gaming terminals.

The gambling discussions currently taking place in the state of Pennsylvania within the House and Senate have covered a wide range of topics. From airport gaming to online casinos and video gaming terminals, lawmakers have been struggling to find common ground and decide upon ways to fill the budget deficit of the state. Just recently, it was reported that a house panel is reviewing a measure to allow video gaming terminals to be added to bars and social club type businesses.

House Bill 1010

According to WITF, the House Gaming Oversight Committee is currently deliberating on House Bill 1010. This measure would allow such venues as bars and social clubs to place video gaming terminals within their establishment. The bill calls for as many as 35,000 terminals to be allowed.

Proponents of the measure state that the video gaming terminals will fill the gaps in the budget since the games can produce as much as $100 million within the first year. Once the video gaming terminals are fully implemented and up and running, the state expects to be able to bring in as much as $500 million annually.

Representative of the state, Mike Sturla, is a major proponent of the bill who stated that instead of lawmakers turning a blind eye to the illegal industry that is already taking place within the state, they should clean it up for everyone and provide a level playing field.

Mike MustioThe sponsor of the bill is Representative Mark Mustio who has come out to reject the notion that the gambling terminals will be cannibalistic towards the traditional casinos of the state. Opponents feel that the VGTs will take away from revenues earned by the land based gaming venues, of which there are currently 12 in operation.

The VGT plan has been quite controversial as it has been discussed several times. The bill was back up for debate beginning last month when a bipartisan group of senators within the state as well as representatives announced that they had created a new plan for VGTs to help the state.

Other Gaming Considerations

On top of VGT being considered, the state lawmakers are also looking into other areas of gaming expansion. It has been expected for several years now that the state will be the next to offer online gaming in the United States. Legislation has been proposed in the past but never pushed through to the governor’s desk. Now, the state seems ready to pass legislation in regards to online gaming but with other issues at hand, it seems online gaming is being pushed to the wayside.

One area that lawmakers have to consider is the state levy tax on casinos. Host cities and municipalities are set to receive a portion of money from the casino but in September of last year, the state Supreme Court said this law was unconstitutional. Lawmakers were given a late January date in which to fix this tax. This did not happen. Lawmakers ended up asking for an extension which was granted, with a new date set for May 26th.

Lawmakers now have less than a month to come up with a way to solve the tax issue. In the past, the law stated that casinos had to pay $10 million or 2% of their slot gaming revenues to the host area, whichever was larger. This amount could now change as something has to be figured out in order for the Supreme Court to feel the changes are fair to small and larger gaming venues of the state.

For now, it will be interesting to watch as the lawmakers try to decide on which legislation will move forward and how the gaming industry will grow in the coming months to help alleviate some of the budget woes.