Legislators within the state of Pennsylvania have been considering a variety of ways in which to expand the gambling industry, especially within the past few months. So much so, that it seems lawmakers cannot decide what to add to legislation and what to take away. The Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development committee is set to meet today to discuss one measure on the table, HB 271. This is one of many bills covering gambling expansion that is currently being considered as the current legislative session is close to coming to an end.
With HB 271, online gambling seems to have the ability to remain within the final text of the measure but other provisions, including the tax rate, could harm the bill and keep it from passing. Now it seems a Senator of the state has plans to introduce a new bill that would cover satellite casino locations and does not seem to include online gambling.
Senator Camera Bartolotta filed a memo yesterday to show she intends to introduce a measure that will allow as many as 25 satellite gaming facilities in the state, with each having the opportunity to offer 500 gaming machines, however table games will not be allowed. Off-track betting could be offered or other games of chance that are legalized.
Bartolotta knows that the operators of the 12 current traditional casinos will not be happy with the idea of satellite casinos so she has added a stipulation that says the satellite venues cannot be built within a 25 mile radius of an existing casino. The Senator has stated that her intentions remain in line with the need for the government to close the gap within the state budget and she plans on doing so by charging as much as $5 million per license for operators of such venues.
A portion of the funds produced by satellite casinos would go to areas that do not currently receive money from the local share tax. This tax provides monies to the host communities for being within the vicinity of the traditional gaming venues. The tax is actually an issue that lawmakers are currently dealing with as well. In September of last year, the state Supreme Court ruled the tax was unconstitutional. Since that time, legislators missed a January deadline to find a solution for the tax and now have until the end of this month to come up with an option for the tax to continue, a solution that makes it fair for everyone involved.
The proposal by Bartolotta will include additional aspects of gaming expansion including allowing airports to offer mobile gaming, the lottery to add keno in bars and taverns along with allowing casinos to offer skill and hybrid games.
According to the Senator, her plan will be able to generate as much as $240 million with upfront fees plus new annual revenues of around $360 million.