Pennsylvanians would have more gambling options — and could help balance the state budget — under a new House gaming proposal to be considered by the state Senate next week.
Consumers could play poker or slots games on video-gaming terminals at roughly 13,500 licensed liquor establishments under the proposal. The revised gaming expansion bill passed in the House late Wednesday.
House Bill 271's numerous changes to the gaming and lottery laws are estimated to raise $227.8 million for the state's general fund in 2017-18.
However, gaming-related revenue estimates haven't always panned out. A 2013 law legalizing small games of chance in taverns was expected to generate $150 million in its first year but fell woefully short.
The House proposal still includes a plan to allow patrons of airports across the state — including Pittsburgh International Airport and Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe — to gamble on iPod-type tablets while awaiting flights.
Local officials are on board with the airport gaming options.
“It will give us an opportunity to provide for our passengers some fun while they are waiting for a flight,” said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority. “It will also help us create a little revenue in the process.”
Bob Kerlik, spokesman for the Allegheny County Airport Authority, said the tablets can provide an additional revenue source for capital projects and economic development.
“Any gaming at the airport would be done in a tasteful way,” he said. “Anticipated revenue would depend on the number of tablets that would be installed.”
The legislation also fixes the formula for collecting the local share tax on slots revenue for counties and municipalities that host casinos. However, the legislation doesn't provide any money for Westmoreland County, which is not home to a casino.
The House proposal would expand the number of off-track-betting facilities operated by the category 1 casinos, such as The Meadows in Washington County. It could provide local share revenue to counties like Westmoreland that don't currently host a casino but could host a satellite operation.
Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, has proposed a similar but more expansive plan. Off-track betting outlets are associated only with category 1 “racinos,” so Ward's plan would call the satellite outlets “ancillary facilities,” which would allow category 2 casinos, such as Rivers in Pittsburgh, to open a satellite facility as well.
The House proposal also makes changes to the Pennsylvania Lottery by legalizing Internet instant games and “iLottery” for players to play games of chance using a computer or mobile device. It also would allow betting on major league sports games, if federal lawmakers change the current prohibition.