Pennsylvania Casinos Voice Concerns Over Illegal Games & VGTs
Casinos in Pennsylvania spoke with state lawmakers this week making it clear they want VGTs to be limited and illegal skill gaming banned.
Casino executives in Pennsylvania spoke with lawmakers this week, providing insight into how they feel about video gaming terminals (VGTs) and unregulated skill gaming machines. The casinos want to see the VGTs limited throughout the state along with a full ban on the unregulated machines that have been operating for years.
Testifying for the House Gaming Oversight Committee
Representatives of the casinos came before the House Gaming Oversight Committee this week, testifying on how the industry was able to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. They also spoke about plans for recovery.
The main response from reps was that the year was difficult, but the industry is expected to recovery. However, the reps say that if the state continues to allow VGTs to operate in certain truck stops, it will hurt the industry. The machines are similar to slot games.
The casinos do not want to see the VGTs expanded to clubs, bars, or taverns. This would provide more gaming in areas where patrons could consider replacing casino visits. Attorney for the gaming industry, Adrian King, compared a VGT expansion to having similar consequences as COVID-19.
The VGT machines were allowed in the state after a full gaming package was passed into law back in 2017. However, only qualifying truck stops could offer the games.
Don’t Forget the Unregulated Games
The representatives also discussed the threat of unregulated skill games that operate in the state. The devices have been found in restaurants and bars as well as grocery stores, strip malls, and convenience stores. There have even been reports of full business centers filled with the games.
A debate has been ongoing for quite some time regarding the legality of the machines. The games are not subject to state regulations, so there are not tax revenues coming in. The profits are shared with the manufacturer, distributor of the game, and the host business.
For casinos, this is unfair, as they pay a huge tax percentage. Even though the casinos were shut down for months and operating at a much lower capacity, the state still received $1.1 billion in 2020. The share the previous year was $1.4 billion.
Penn National spoke out during the meeting, requesting that the committee reject any effort to authorize distributed gaming in any forms, be it VGT or the skill games. The casino industry is still trying to recover from the pandemic, so any additional competition is only to make that effort even harder.
The casinos want a fair shot at getting back to full business mode and to do this, they think it means no additional VGT competition or unlicensed games.
The other side of the argument has responded to the comments of the casino industry. Pace-O-Matic is a leading manufacturer of skill gaming devices. They disagree with the casino reps statements. They do not feel that the gambling facilities are affected by their games.
Mike Barley, a spokesperson for the company, stated that the skill games have been active in the state since 2015. The company says that the slot revenue from 2015 to 2019 they saw a 2% increase in slot revenues.
Pace-O-Matic says that as the demand for games of chance and skill increase, so does the demand for other games, like slots at the casino. The skills games are not cannibalizing casino revenues.
For now, the argument continues. Lawmakers have not said one way or the other what they plan to do with the casino industry’s request. It will be interesting to see how far they push it in the future to try and eliminate what they feel is competition.