Gaming expansion gets attention in Pennsylvania

May 25, 2016 9:49 AM

Pennsylvania lawmakers may act this week on bills that could legalize daily fantasy sports activity and online gambling while allowing slot machines at airports.

Most GOP lawmakers – Republicans control both the House and Senate – see gambling expansion as an alternative to the tax increases Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed in a $33.3 billion fiscal blueprint that would close the state’s $1 billion-$2 billion deficit and put more money into public schools.

The gaming bill, advanced by Rep. John Payne, R-Dauphin, chairman of the House’s Gaming Oversight Committee, would let the state’s 12 licensed casinos expand operations to the Internet.

Casinos could offer online poker and fantasy sports after paying a $5 million license fee. The state also would charge a 14 percent tax on “all gross interactive gaming revenue.” The bill also would allow slot machines to be added to airport terminals and off-track betting parlors.

Payne estimates revenues of $300 million to $400 million a year.

Payne defended his projections against critics who see them as inflated.

Payne’s bill is opposed by Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas-based company that owns Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem. He has funded an advocacy group, Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, which has run online and television advertisements critical of any gambling expansion in Pennsylvania.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: [email protected]