A group of Pennsylvania casino operators sent a letter to the state’s lawmakers last week urging them to avoid any expansion of casino-style gambling. The operators are mainly targeting legislation that would authorize VLTs for bars and taverns, which they say would cannibalize the existing casinos and result in a net reduction of revenue to the state.
The letter, signed by executives of all six racinos and four stand-alone casinos in the state, was directed to the House and Senate committees responsible for gaming oversight. The House Gaming Oversight Committee met last week. In addition to urging against expansion of slots, the letter listed the other issues that are most important to the industry ahead of committee meetings affecting casinos.
“We urge the General Assembly to firmly reject any expansion of casino-like gambling that is not done through existing casinos,” the letter said, singling out tavern VLTs by citing a sharp decline in revenue for Illinois casinos since that state’s VLT law was enacted in 2009.
Among the other issues cited by the letter was a call to lawmakers to reject any legislation that would lift the casinos’ exemption to the state indoor smoking ban, noting that smoking bans in other states have “dramatically decreased revenue and taxes.”
The letter also proposed 24-hour alcohol service in casinos (they currently abide by the state law prohibiting alcohol sales after 2 a.m.), tax credits for capital investments, and recognition of approvals of games by other states’ gaming labs by Pennsylvania to speed up renewal of equipment on gaming floors.
Other proposals in the letter include:
• an easing of mandatory minimum staffing requirements;
• tax-free “promotional play” in which bets are made in internal casino currency such as points;
• a moratorium on new resort casinos, including “elimination of the license” for the last racino;
• implementation of “serious sanctions” to deter underage gambling; and,
• an “elimination of redundancy” in regulatory powers now shared by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, Revenue Department, state police and attorney general’s office.
“Pennsylvania’s gaming industry is at a critical juncture,” the letter said, noting “intense competition in every direction… One need only look at Atlantic City to see what can occur when market changes and increased competition are ignored.”