A newly unveiled measure to expand casino-style gambling in Pennsylvania — already the nation’s No. 2 commercial casino state — is headed to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf after lawmakers approved it in a bid to help the state government plug its biggest cash shortfall since the recession.
The heavily lobbied legislation emerged from behind closed doors Wednesday night as part of wider budget negotiations, after competing measures passed the House and Senate in the last five months. Lawmakers hope to squeeze another $200 million a year or more from casino license fees and taxes on gambling losses. The House passed it Thursday, 109-72. Wolf has not said whether he will sign it. Here is a look at some of the elements:
Each of Pennsylvania’s 10 larger casinos would be able to bid on a satellite casino license allowing up to 750 slot machines and 30 table games at a facility that is not within 25 miles of another casino. Certain counties are also off-limits. Bidding starts at $7.5 million, with a table games certificate costing an extra $2.5 million. License fees and taxes on gambling at the sites would go into the treasuries of local and state governments, as well public schools and economic and civic development projects. A municipality could choose to prohibit such an establishment inside its borders.
GAMBLING AT TRUCK STOPS
Qualifying truck stops could operate up to five slot machine-style machines called video gambling terminals. The revenue would be split between the state, the license holder, terminal operators and host counties and municipalities. Counties that host a casino can prohibit the machines inside its borders.
Licensed casinos, both in Pennsylvania and potentially beyond, can apply to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to operate casino-style gambling on websites and mobile applications to people in Pennsylvania. A license fee of $10 million allows a casino to operate poker, table games and slot machine-style games online. Gross revenue from gambling on online slot machine-style games would be taxed at a 52 percent rate, while online table game revenue would be taxed at 14 percent. Just three states — New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada — allow online casino gambling.
The Pennsylvania Lottery would be able to offer keno and 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. The requirement had meant about $140 million that Pennsylvania’s casinos pay annually to local government budgets, institutions and projects in Philadelphia and 11 counties.
Casinos could seek approval to operate an interactive 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 state and local governments.
Daily fantasy sports betting in Pennsylvania would become regulated and taxed in Pennsylvania. Fantasy sports operators would have to pay a $50,000 license fee and a 15 percent tax based on in-state participation. Applicants would have to verify that players are at least 18.
Casinos could apply to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to offer sports betting at the casino or online, should it become legal under federal law or under a federal court ruling. A license would be $10 million.
Resort casinos — Valley Forge Casino in suburban Philadelphia and Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in southwestern Pennsylvania — can pay a $1 million fee to be relieved from requirements in the original 2004 casino law that gamblers must also take part in other amenities at the establishment. They also can add up to 250 slot machines for a $2.5 million fee and up to 15 table games for a $1 million fee.
A 2004 provision limiting ownership of casinos to no more than one controlling stake in one casino would be repealed. That could end a lawsuit that has held up construction of the Live! Hotel & Casino in Philadelphia for nearly three years.
Source: Pennsylvania Senate Republicans.