Pa. Senators OK Bars To Profit From Gambling Games
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A bill that could allow several thousand bars in Pennsylvania to profit from gambling contests called small games of chance hit the fasttrack Wednesday in the state Legislature, and its passage would represent the largest expansion of legal gambling in nearly four years.
The bill passed the Senate 39-11 without debate. A spokesman for House Republican majority leaders said a final vote was possible before the end of the day Wednesday.
The last substantial expansion of gambling approved by lawmakers was in 2010, when slot-machine casinos were allowed to add table games.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, RDelaware, said he expected the bill will be passed by the House and signed by Gov. Tom Corbett. A spokesman for Corbett did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under the bill, approximately 4,500 bars and taverns could seek licenses to hold pull-tabs, daily drawings and tavern raffles. Individual prize limits would be $2,000 for a single game and $35,000 over seven days, while raffles would be limited to once a month. The state would take 60 percent of the bar owner’s revenue, an amount projected at $150 million a year for the state’s main bank account.
Amy Christie of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage Association, which represents bars and restaurants with state liquor licenses, said the gambling expansion would allow mom-and-pop bar and tavern owners to compete with casinos and the private clubs that can sell liquor and profit from gambling. But, she insisted, the gambling expansion being afforded to bars and taverns in the bill was a fraction of what their competitors are able to offer.
“ This is not casino gaming, this is not private club gaming,” Christie said. The additional income for tavern owners – state budget analysts project about $100 million a year – would help bar and tavern owners make a living, but also allow them to continue donating to charities and sponsoring civic causes such as ball fields and softball teams.
“It’s not going to come out of our meager existence we make selling a beer,” she said.
A companion bill passed by the Senate, 45-5, would expand from six to eight how games that private clubs and volunteer organizations – VFW posts, American Legion halls and Moose and Elks lodges – could offer, and it would raise some maximum prizes.
It also would legalize small sports betting pools, as long as the volunteer organizations and clubs return the entire betting pool to the players.
A House vote on that bill also was possible Wednesday.