Regulation Of Video Poker Outside Of PA Casinos Still Alive

No too long ago, it seemed like video gaming terminals (VGT’s) had no chance of being included in the contentious gambling bill that came to a halt in the Pennsylvania Senate.

But over the past few weeks, several influential voices have spoken out in support of the tavern- and club-based gaming terminals, and this support adds an interesting twist to the discussion of VGT’s.

Part of the intrigue of VGT’s is that the bill which included them failed to win the necessary votes within the House. Shortly thereafter, the same bill without VGT’s passed.

Mustio, Christie: Let the VGT’s play

One of the main roadblocks for VGT’s is casinos, according to Amy Christie, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association.

Christie told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Brian O’Neill that, in her opinion, casinos are lobbying hard against the VGT provision because they’re afraid the terminals will lure gamblers away from their properties. From the PPG:

“I think the casinos should just get over it,” Christie said. “Pennsylvania taxpayers are the ones who need the assistance.”

Rep. Mark Mustio, a long-time proponent of expanded gambling laws in Pennsylvania, also chimed in about VGT’s.

He also discounted the casino lobby’s concerns, pointing out that taverns and bars are home to tens of thousands of illegally placed VGT’s, yet the casinos “seem to be doing quite well.”

And O’Neill added his own salvo by saying that adding VGT’s is just an acknowledgement of what already exists. He said that all lawmakers have to do is “simply recognize what’s been a part of Western Pennsylvania bar culture for generations and legalize video poker.”

Will VGT’s endanger online gambling?

VGT’s had a chance over recent months to endanger a larger gambling package — one that would authorize PA online poker and casinos.

While the worry of casinos is that terminals will pull customers away from their gambling floors and into bars and taverns, online gambling proponents have a much bigger fear: VGT’s could derail the passage of legislation that would allow online play.

That probably won’t be the case for a couple of reasons. For one, the most recent vote on VGT’s indicates there’s little chance they’ll sneak into future legislation, according to some analysts:

But even if VGTs get back in the mix, it doesn’t seem like it has a chance to scuttle online gambling efforts like they did in recent months. A gambling bill is going to happen.

The inclusion of online gambling in a bill that will be considered this fall is a “no-brainer” according to one lawmaker.

Addition of VGT regulations bring benefits

Does VGT regulation make sense, even if it’s not popular with casinos?

The discussion about regulation of online gambling and VGTs intersects in important way. Legalizing online gambling would provide several concrete benefits: consumer protection, expert management by land-based casinos, tax revenue and oversight by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

One can imagine that several of these benefits would also apply to VGT’s, and even more so since online gambling and tavern/bar terminals already operate illegally within the state.