For some time now, video gaming terminals (VGTs) and skill games have been a subject of debate in Pennsylvania. Right now, consideration is being given to adding more VGTs in the state as well as possibly allowing skill games. This would of course affect casinos and bars as well as businesses like the VFW. All of this was up for discussion during a preliminary hearing involving non-casino wagering devices in the state recently within a Senate committee hearing. Casino operators spoke out heavily against the expansion.
Republican Senator Tom Killion led the recent hearing, with Senate Bill 1256 under discussion. This bill has competing interests at odds with some testifying during the hearing that the bill will result in major consequences if gambling expands to add the devices.
Those who are opposed to the bill include Pace-O-Matic (POM) and casinos. POM is a manufacturer of skill games as well as a distributor. They are in a gray area when it comes to gaming with a 2014 ruling saying their devices are skill games. However, they received a different ruling in another court.
The Gaming Control Board and State Police feel that the skill games are illegal and have made attempts to remove them. Thousands of machines have been allowed to operate, with many calling them illegal, and during the hearing, it was estimated that as many as 15,000 may be in operation. The devices reportedly cut into lottery and casino slot earnings.
POM executive Paul Goldean testified during the hearing, stating that the bill would kill the skill game industry and put slot machines in every business in state. Goldean went on to say that the company supports efforts to regulate the industry, legislation that would provide more tax revenue, at a fair rate, based on the revenue the games generate, but not this current legislation.
Casinos in the state, as a group, provided written testimony regarding their disdain for the legislation. The casinos said that such a gamin expansion would result in substantial losses when it comes to gaming tax revenues for the state. It would also result in a large revenue loss for the lottery. Jobs would be lost and millions in investment dollars would go away.
The group went on to state that there is never a right time to flood the state with slot machines, putting then up and down every main street. However, now is particularly not a good time due to the casinos having just reopened and they are trying to get back on their feet from the coronavirus pandemic.
Lottery Shows up in Opposition
Lottery officials also showed up to the meeting to show their opposition. Lottery Director Drew Svitko spoke to the committee stating that the Lottery is not in favor of the legislation as it will have a negative impact on the skill games already offered by the lottery.
Such machines are reportedly already operating in around 28% of the Lottery network. With the machines taking money that would otherwise go towards the lottery games.
Even though there is major opposition towards the bill, it seems that legislators see a benefit of allowing legal gambling machines to be installed at taverns and organizations like the VFW. It is unclear as to if and when the legislation will be moved forward or considered again.