VGT issue PA gambling online bill

VGTs May Sink Pennsylvania’s Gambling Expansion Bill … Again

[toc]Ask Pennsylvania House Republicans if the addition of more than 3,000 video gambling terminals (VGTs) at taverns across the state is a good thing. Chances are they’ll say “yes.”

Unfortunately, that’s not the view of all state lawmakers. And there are grumblings around Harrisburg that the current gambling expansion bill’s inclusion of VGTs may very well derail the bill for the second year in a row.

Here’s why PA lawmakers don’t like VGTs

Opponents of VGTs say they’ll keep gamblers away from casinos. Why drive an hour or two to pull slots at a casino when you can do the same thing at the neighborhood bar and be home in time for dinner?

On top of that, communities that receive tax benefits from land-based casinos aren’t too happy about the fact that revenue from tavern VGTs will go to Harrisburg instead of local coffers.

Senators take to the papers against VGTs

State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney said as much in a brief letter he wrote to The Intelligencer earlier this month:

“Bucks County taxpayers should not lose more dollars to Harrisburg by diluting the positive financial and economic impact that Parx Casino provides our communities. We should not balance the budget on the backs of Bucks County’s — and Pennsylvania’s — underprivileged.”

McIlhinney went on to call the introduction of VGTs a “shortsighted” budget gimmick that will unnecessarily invade numerous communities around the state.

Mustio pens column in support of VGTs

That VGTs will bring in more revenue is a big reason why House Republicans support the bill.

Pennsylvania’s slot taxes are the highest in the nation. So the thinking goes that more slots means more money for the state. PA is currently facing a more than $1 billion budget deficit.

Rep. Mark Mustio is leading the VGT charge. His op-ed in favor of the terminals appeared in the Daily Times‘ opinion section two days after The Intelligencer published McIlhinney’s letter.

His main arguments? Legalized VGTs will bring $300 to $400 million in revenue and will effectively shut down the thousands of illegal VGTs in operation across the state.

Here’s an excerpt from Mustio’s letter:

“Amidst trying to fill a huge void in revenue, our governor and some in the General Assembly have blatantly overlooked arguably the most common-sense option for such revenue, to the tune of an estimated $300 to $400 million annually for Pennsylvania. I’m talking about the legalization of Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) in liquor licensed locations.”