Fast forward to today, and the state House finally passed legislation to permit tables games like poker, blackjack and roulette at Pennsylvania's 14 licensed slot-gaming facilities, including The Sands Casino-Resort in Bethlehem.
Joe voted for this measure because it presents "a real opportunity to create jobs in our area at a time when so many people are losing jobs or already are on unemployment. It spurs economic development to make possible thousands of new jobs across the state while simultaneously providing the necessary revenues for our budgetary needs."
The bill (S.B. 711), which also addresses a number of reforms to Pennsylvania’s gaming industry, is a component of the revenue package necessary to fund the 2009-10 budget state lawmakers completed in October. The measure is expected to raise about $320 million for empty state coffers over the next two years, Brennan claims.
As amended by the House, the legislation would allow Category 1 and Category 2 licensed slot facilities to operate up to 250 table games at any one time, while Category 3 licensees could operate up to 50. Category 1 licensees include racetracks with slot machines, while Category 2 licensees are stand-alone casinos.
Casinos would pay a one-time fee to be authorized for table games, $16.5 million for racetrack and stand-alone casinos and $7.5 million for resort casinos.
Table games licensees would be required to pay a total tax rate of 16 percent on all gross table game revenues, with 14 percent going to the state, 1 percent to the host county and 1 percent to the host municipality. The state share of table games revenue would go directly into the state’s General Fund for budget needs until the state’s Rainy Day Fund balance surpasses $750 million. After that, all table games revenue would be allocated for property tax relief, along with the revenue from slots.
"Throughout Pennsylvania, the addition of table games has the potential to create more than 10,000 direct and related jobs and provide $1 billion in economic output annually," Brennan said. "It also keeps Pennsylvania dollars at home by attracting customers who otherwise may travel out of state – and continues to provide hundreds of millions of dollars for property tax relief across the state."
Another local state house member, Rep. Doug Reichley, R-Lehigh, opposed this bill. He derided a provision that would benefit Scranton's Commonwealth Medical College, whose board includes Louis DeNaples. Perjury charges were dropped against DeNaples earlier this year. "This is another example of literal game-playing going on with this legislation," says Reichley.
Senate Bill 711 now goes back to the Senate for consideration.