Casinos in Pennsylvania are united in their pushback against the expansion of the Video Gaming Industry in the Keystone State. A recent State Senate Committee has heard a united voice against in a hearing on a new proposal to once again expand the state’s number of Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) and other non-casino wagering devices in Pennsylvania. The hearing is the latest move in an ongoing series of threats and counter thrusts since the global pandemic began.
Casinos & Games Manufacturers Against the VGT Spread in PA
Leading the recent Senate Committee Hearing was Republican Senator Tom Killion, with Senate Bill 1256 under debate. The bill has competing interests, and some have been testifying during the debate on the bill that there will be consequences on the industry if gambling expands in the Keystone State to include the VGT devices.
Those opposed to Bill 1256 include the casinos (both land-based and online) and industry heavyweight Pace-O-Matic (POM). POM is a distributor and manufacturer of skill games. POM claim that they are in a gray area with a 2014 ruling their devices are skill games under a different ruling in another state court.
All 13 PA Casinos put their signature to a letter to lawmakers pointing out the important role of the gaming industry to Pennsylvania and the potential job losses of up to 85 000 if the VGT expansion goes ahead. Many thousands of machines currently in use are officially illegal and impacting land-based casinos which are only allowed to operate at two-thirds capacity due to global pandemic health restrictions. The letter states;
“The bill is bad public policy and comes as our industry continues to reopen after remaining shuttered for nearly four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter from the casino industry representatives’ states.
“We recognize that hundreds of struggling restaurants, bars, and other liquor-licensed business and organizations in our Commonwealth are also grappling with the economic impact of the pandemic. However, help for liquor licensees should not, and does not have to, come at the expense of our industry.”
The Chief Administrative Officer of Pace-O-Matic, Paul Goldean, testified in opposition to the VGT expansion bill. According to Goldean, the new bill would destroy the skill gaming industry. As a consequence, Goldean made his opinion clear that the number of VGT machines will increase dramatically to the point that there could potentially be a VGT; “in every business across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania “.
“We cannot and do not compete with VGTs or the slot machines in casinos. I want to be clear; we support legislative efforts to regulate our industry, allow us to provide additional tax revenue, at a fair rate, based on the revenue our games generate. We also welcome additional enforcement and penalties aimed at cleaning up the illegal games and bad actors” Goldean said.
Goldean noted that the bill is not a “VGT and skill games bill”, however, rather only encourages VGTs; “This bill only supports VGTs. This lumps VGTs and skill games together, calling them hybrid video gaming terminals and taxing them at the same rate” he concluded.
Law Enforcement Agencies See VGTs as illegal
Both the State Police and Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board are of the understanding that the skill games are illegal and as such, have made repeated attempts to remove them from multiple venues across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, however, thousands of machines continue to operate state wide.
During the course of the hearing, it has been estimated that potentially as many as 15 000 may continue to be in operation across Pennsylvania, with each one cutting heavily into online sports betting and online casino earnings.