Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature were discussing legislation to expand casino-style gambling in Pennsylvania — already the nation’s No. 2 commercial casino state — in a bid to help the state government plug its biggest cash shortfall since the recession.
Heavily lobbied legislation under construction behind closed doors involved a jumble of concepts that offer a combination of license fees and taxes on gambling losses.
Competing measures have passed the House and Senate in the last two months. As of Sunday, closed-door negotiations had yet to produce an actual draft of legislation that was part of a wider budget agreement. Any compromise measure would still need approval by both chambers and Wolf. Here is a look at some of the elements under discussion:
Each of Pennsylvania’s 10 larger casinos would be able to bid on a satellite casino license allowing up to 700 slot machines and 100 table games at a facility that is not within 25 miles of another casino. Multimillion-dollar license fees and taxes on gambling at the sites would go into the treasuries of local and state governments.
GAMBLING AT BARS
This provision lacks support in the Senate or from Wolf, after it passed the House last month. Under it, a liquor license holder, such as a bar, hotel, restaurant, truck stop or fraternal club, could operate slot machine-style video gambling terminals. As many as 40,000 terminals would be allowed statewide. Each establishment could operate up to five, while a truck stop could operate as many as 10. The revenue would be split between the state, the license holder, terminal operators and host counties and municipalities.
Licensed commercial casinos in Pennsylvania can apply to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to operate casino-style gambling on websites and mobile applications. A license fee would be necessary to operate a website. Gross revenue from gambling on online slot machine games would be taxed at a 26 percent rate, while online table game revenue would be taxed at 20 percent. Just three states — New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada — allow online casino gambling.
The Pennsylvania Lottery would be able to feature online games, including its existing games, instant tickets and raffle games. The proceeds would go into the state Lottery Fund, which subsidizes programs for the elderly. The lottery would be prohibited from operating casino-style games online, such as poker, roulette, slot machines and blackjack. Four states — Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan — allow online lottery play, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Casinos would be required to pay millions of dollars annually to their host communities, reinstating a mandate struck down by the state Supreme Court last year because it treated casinos differently. Precise details were not available about what the casinos would be required to pay, but the requirement had meant about $140 million that Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos pay annually to local government budgets, institutions and projects in Philadelphia and 11 counties.
Casinos could seek approval to operate an online gambling parlor at an international or regional airport in Pennsylvania, with an agreement from the airport authority. The machines would be accessible only to ticketed passengers and license fees would be required. Eligible airports are: Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Erie; Wilkes-Barre/Scranton; Lehigh Valley; Harrisburg; Arnold Palmer Regional Airport; and University Park Airport in State College. Taxes on airport gambling revenue would go to the airport and the state.
Daily fantasy sports betting in Pennsylvania would become regulated and taxed in Pennsylvania. Fantasy sports companies such as FanDuel and DraftKings would have to pay a license fee and a tax based on in-state participation. Applicants would have to verify that players are at least 18.
Casinos could apply to the gaming board to operate sports betting at the casino or online, should it become legal under federal law or under a federal court ruling.
Resort casinos — Valley Forge Casino in suburban Philadelphia and Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in southwestern Pennsylvania — can pay a fee to be relieved from requirements in the original 2004 casino law that gamblers must also take part in other amenities at the establishment.
Source: Pennsylvania Senate Republicans.