Lawmakers Ponder Slots at Pennsylvania Airports

A Pennsylvania lawmaker held a hearing at the Harrisburg International Airport (l.) to consider a bill that would legalize slot machines at the state’s six international airports.

With Pennsylvania lawmakers searching for ways to address a huge budget deficit, many new gambling options are being considered. One is envisioned by a bill sponsored by state Rep. Nick Kotik—slot machines at airports.

Last week, Kotik joined officials of the state’s airports, casino officials and others at Harrisburg International Airport for a hearing on his measure, HB 1408, which would legalize slot machines at the state’s six international airports—Erie International Airport, Harrisburg International Airport, Lehigh Valley International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, Pittsburgh International Airport, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

Under Kotik’s measure, a portion of the revenue generated from slots would be given to the host airports for revitalization projects, and other portions would help local municipalities, in addition to going to the General Fund for the state budget.

“The casino industry is a big industry in Pennsylvania,” Kotik told the local Fox TV news station. “It generates $1.3 billion in revenue for the commonwealth. So, I thought as an added amenity, we might look at airports and how we can help those airports bring in additional revenues.”

Airport officials are generally split on the idea. Among the largest airports, officials in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg support the idea, while Philadelphia airport officials oppose it.

“The expenses to operate, maintain, and administer the four airports that are owned and operated by the airport authority are extensive,” said Tim Edwards, executive director of the Harrisburg airport, according to Fox. “When you have those days where you have delays or cancellations, that may be weather-related, or something else, it’s important to have something for the passengers to do other than just sit there.”

In an interview with USA Today, Pittsburgh airport spokesman Bob Kerlik said he supports the bill. “We feel this could be a valuable tool in raising revenue and offsetting costs,” he said. “Any slot machines at the airport would be done in a tasteful way.”

Mary Flannerty, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia airport, told the publication a different story. “The city believes there are better uses for the airport’s limited terminal space, and ones that are more consistent with PHL’s image as a world-class and family-friendly facility,” she said.