As the state of Pennsylvania examines options to expand gambling as a means to slow down a growing deficit, a new bill has been introduced which could legalize video gaming machines. The proposal by Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, would allow restaurants, bars and clubs with liquor licenses to operate up to three video gaming machines on their premises. According to the bill, the gaming machines would be linked to the Pennsylvania Lottery’s Central Computer to allow maximum regulation and easy revenue collecting.
Total revenue would be allocated as follows:
- 45% to school property tax rebates
- 23% to the licensee
- 22% to the licensed vendor
- 5% to host municipalities
- 5% to licensed casinos
In 2009, the idea of legalizing video gambling machines was brought up during the state budget impasse, however the government eventually decided to allow the introduction of skill games such as poker at state casinos instead. In 2010, Pennsylvania casinos were allowed to offer poker, blackjack and other table games, with 14 casinos (seven of them race tracks) authorized to do so. At the time, Governor Ed Rendall predicted that even with the influx of revenue from casino table games, additional cuts to programs and the state work force were still a possibility.
Now, faced with growing competition from neighboring states, including New Jersey’s new online gambling regime, the government believes that it needs to up the ante and is considering the expansion of gambling once more.
Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Charles Zogby noted recently that tax revenue growth would be outpaced by growing costs in the medical assistance and public pension spheres. A new source of revenue needs to be found, and the expansion of gambling, such as the proposal by Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, may be the solution.