Campaigners Push for VGT Regulation in Pennsylvania

PennsylvaniaProposals to regulate Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) in Pennsylvania appear to be gaining support, potentially further delaying online gambling legislation.

The unresolved debate about what should and what shouldn´t be included in Pennsylvania´s gambling expansion plans has already resulted in online gambling legislation being delayed at least until the fall. Now, campaigners are pushing for the inclusion of one of the most contentious issues under discussion – Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) – and they appear to be gaining support.

According to a report last night on Fox43 News, groups of bar and tavern owners have come together in order to lobby in favor of regulated Video Gaming Terminals. The groups claim that, due to last year´s Pennsylvania Act 39 – an Act that allowed grocery stores to sell beers and wines – they are losing money and could soon go out of business with the loss of thousands of jobs.

Representatives and Public Support the Campaign

The news report comes a week after Representative Mark Mustio penned an op-ed for The Daily Item in which he claimed it was “morally and fiscally irresponsible” for legislators not to regulate an industry which is already in existence. Mustio – who [geolink href=””]introduced a bill this year[/geolink] to regulate VGTs – claims regulation would raise between $300 million and $400 million annually in tax revenues.

A few days later, Fox43 News reported on Representative Stan Saylor´s support for the regulation of VGTs following lobbying by bar and tavern owners in Dauphin County. The news station ran a poll to gauge public support for the proposals and, of 390 respondents, 88.97% of the public were in support of regulating Video Gaming Terminals in bars and taverns.

PaVGA´s #LetEveryoneWin Campaign

The current push for VGT regulation in Pennsylvania follows months of social media campaigning by the Pennsylvania Video Gaming Association (PaVGA). Using the hashtag #LetEveryoneWin, the association claims brick and mortar casinos will be the only winners if an expansion of gambling goes ahead without the inclusion of Video Gaming Terminals.

The association argues only communities in the immediate vicinity of brick and mortar casinos will benefit from the 4% local share tax currently being proposed; whereas, if VGTs are regulated, communities in all 67 counties will benefit. The PaVGA is asking followers to write to their Senators in a PPA-esque style campaign to make Senators aware of the benefits of regulating VGTs.

Casinos Continue to Oppose VGT Regulation

Despite the sweeteners offered to casinos in Rep. Mustio´s bill (an exclusion from paying the local share tax and a reduction in the rate of tax on slots revenue), Pennsylvania´s casinos continue to oppose the regulation of VGTs. They claim the regulation of VGTs would cannibalize their industry and cost up to 16,000 jobs – an unlikely scenario as up to 40,000 VGTs already operate illegally in the state.

In June, the Sands Bethlehem Casino sponsored an anti-VGT campaign that alleged the regulation of VGTs would result in mini casinos springing up in every licensed premises in the state – “even nursing homes”. After hearing that the Sands had contributed more than $1 million to the campaign, Rep. Mustio commented “If Sands can spend $1m for an ad campaign, maybe we should raise their taxes.”

Likelihood of VGTs being included in PA Gambling Expansion Growing

Last week, I speculated on how far legislators would [geolink href=””]kick online gambling legislation down the road[/geolink] – coming to the conclusion that a compromise situation will be found that includes VGTs in order to lessen the burden on Pennsylvanian taxpayers. Events subsequent to that article´s publication seem to make this conclusion more likely, although when this might happen is anybody´s guess.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett