Games of skill threaten a key revenue stream in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s casino industry is a major driver of our statewide economy that benefits every single taxpayer, whether they like to gamble or not.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, or PGCB, reports that annual gaming revenue broke records in the fiscal year that ended June 30, surpassing $5 billion.

State casinos generated more than $2 billion in tax revenue in the last fiscal year. This is also a record. In fact, Pennsylvania collects more gaming tax revenue than any state in the nation.

The casinos provide more than $150 million in annual local share grants to first responders and nonprofits in their local communities and invest more than $500 million annually with Pennsylvania businesses. This industry supports more than 30,000 jobs across the state for a total of $2 billion in annual wages, benefits and tips. This is a huge and positive impact.

It’s imperative that lawmakers consider these workers and the industry’s contribution to every taxpayer as they debate proposals to expand gaming, particularly legislation sponsored by state Sen. Gene Yau that would regulate what top law enforcement agencies describe as illegal gambling. skills.

Video slot machines have exploded in bars and taverns, gas stations, convenience stores, laundromats, corner stores, and thrift stores, even though the attorney general and state police believe these devices are illegal.

These machines do not generate a dime in gaming taxes. They bring crime to communities across the state and drain revenue from senior programs funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery.

State police chiefs testified in 2021 that the operation of these machines was ripe for corruption and that there were no active safeguards to prevent minors from gambling, unlike those put in place in licensed casinos.

State police also testified that “PSP, along with other law enforcement agencies across the country, continue to see increased criminal activity related to the use and operation of these devices.”

The state police are not alone:

Gov. Tom Wolf’s office announced in 2020: “The administration believes that Pennsylvania needs to take a tough stance on illegal gambling, including so-called ‘games of skill’ and other slot machines.” These machines are illegal, unregulated and put senior programs at risk by draining lottery revenue.”

The attorney general’s office issued a statement saying it was awaiting a Commonwealth Court ruling on the legality of games of skill before seizing machines.

State Gaming Control Board General Counsel Doug Sherman testified in 2021: “The position of the board is that we support the position of the Pennsylvania State Police that these machines (skill gaming machines) are not permitted under the Gaming Act .”

Secretary of State for Revenue Dan Hassell said in 2019: “It is our view that these so-called games of skill are not legal under current law. This is the state police opinion they are talking about. And we support their position on this matter.

Pennsylvania Lottery Executive Director Drew Svitko testified that these machines drain more than $200 million a year from the lottery. Every dollar pumped into an illegal machine comes at the expense of seniors who rely on Meals on Wheels and other life-saving programs funded by lottery proceeds.

Pennsylvania got it right in 2004 when gaming was first introduced and then in 2017 when gaming was expanded to include online gaming and 10 new casinos. Instead of regulating illegal gaming devices, lawmakers should tighten existing state laws to eliminate these machines and the threat they pose to communities, seniors and 30,000 workers.

Pete Shelley is a spokesperson for Pennsylvanians Against Gaming Expansion.

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