[toc]It’s never a good idea to cross a casino owner.
The $1.3 billion sale of Sands Bethlehem to MGM Resorts International collapsed last month as Pennsylvania lawmakers consider a bill that would expand gaming with video gaming terminals (VGTs).
Within two weeks of the deal going south, Sands started an advertising campaign against the legislation that allegedly tanked its deal.
The Morning Call described the campaign:
“You’ll soon be seeing doom-and-gloom commercials detailing how VGTs in every neighborhood will gut a statewide casino model that is yielding $1.4 billion in tax money a year.”
The specifics of Sands’ anti-VGT initiative
Sands is funneling its anti-VGT money through a lobbying group called Pennsylvanians For Responsible Government.
We watched one of the group’s commercials, and it was, as The Morning Call indicated, almost comically passimistic.
The commercial starts with the following allegation: Harrisburg politicians have a plan to create more than 12,000 casinos across Pennsylvania. They want blackjack and poker machines “in delis, restaurants, bars, and pizza shops…even nursing homes.”
The commercial goes on to say 40,000 VGTs could be “just a few feet from your house” and that the new law could allow VGTs next to schools, churches, and playgrounds.
Arguments against VGTs
Opponents of “tavern gambling” say it’s going to undercut the profits of the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos.
It’s not a new argument. But it tends to be a powerful one for the anti-VGT lobby. It makes rational sense that the introduction of thousands of VGTs would draw gamblers away from casinos.
However, the true impact of the gaming terminals remains to be seen. Will they actually draw customers away from casinos? Probably. But they’ll also attract gamblers who may not live a reasonable drive away from a casino or who don’t go to casinos at all.
Arguments for VGTs in PA
The bill, known as HB1010, carries with it a “memorandum” that explains its proposed necessity. This memorandum makes the bedrock arguments in favor of expansion:
- Illinois brought in $336 million from VGTs without Chicago’s participation.
- Forty thousand VGTs are already operating illegally.
- Revenue will raise $2 million annually for gambling addiction programs.
- Locations with VGTs will earn more revenue and can hire more people.
“Please join us in legalizing operator-based video gaming terminals in Pennsylvania, thereby growing businesses, creating jobs and increasing revenue for Pennsylvania,” the memorandum’s conclusion reads. “By supporting this legislation, you are supporting small businesses, the community and the Commonwealth!”