VGTs Under Discussion Yet Again in Pennsylvania

by Kyle Miller

Video gaming terminals are back on the table in Pennsylvania with new bill introduced this week.

The discussion of gambling expansion has continued to change, taking steps back and forward in the state of Pennsylvania. For years the state has tried to expand their gaming industry, with several options on the table for consideration. From online gaming to video gaming terminals, the slot tax fiasco and more, the state has its hands full with several bills on the table and many different variations as to how gaming should expand in the state.

This past week, yet another bill has surfaced, bringing back the debate involving video gaming terminals. On Monday, a new bill was introduced by a group of state senators and representatives that would allow for VGTs as well as cut down the slots tax.

The New Bill

The full text of the new bill has yet to be released but supporters of the measure held a press conference yesterday to discuss the details. During the press conference, it was revealed that the main component of the measure is video gaming terminals. Currently, there are already tens of thousands of these machines operating in the state, based on reports by local police. The new bill would allow for as many as 40,000 VGTs of the legal variety to be operated in taverns, bars, truck stops and off-track betting facilities.

Senator Guy ReschenthalerAccording to Senator Guy Reschenthaler, the new measure would allow as many as five VGT systems in a single tavern or bar. Truck stops and the OTB outlets would be allowed double that amount, with a maximum set at ten machines. Betting would be capped at $5 per wager while payouts will be restricted to $1,000 per person per day. The senator has stated that the machines could help to bring as much as $100 million during the first year of operation and as much as $500 million each year within a five year time frame.

VGT revenues would be taxed at 34% while operators of the machines would have to pay a local share tax of 4%. The local share tax is currently under debate and is one subject that has been under review by lawmakers. This amount for VGT gaming is quite a bit lower than the 54% tax that the state currently has on slot machines at the 12 operating casinos. The new bill would lower the amount casinos pay to 34% as well.

Support

While the bill is in its early stages, it reportedly already has support. Penn National Gaming supposedly is in agreement with the measure, hoping that the bill is not revised in the future. The other 11 casinos in the state are said to be sitting down and doing the math to see if the changes will be beneficial to their gaming venue, according to Penn National Gaming’s Vice President Eric Schippers when speaking to Penn Live.

The casinos of the state have been in opposition to VGT authorization in the past, especially during the debate on gambling expansion in 2016. During that time, VGTs were considered the one thing that stopped the state from approving online gambling legislation.

Now, the House Gaming Oversight Committee is set to hold their latest hearing on the gambling expansion proposals and information has not been provided as to how many bills will be considered and which avenue the House is leaning towards when it comes to gambling expansion.

It will be interesting to see after the hearing if any measures stand up to what the House would like to see as far as gambling expansion is concerned. The state has waited a long time to be able to offer online gaming as well as expand in other areas of the industry.