Pennsylvania Politicians Will Kick Off 2017 With Casino Talks

Posted on January 2, 2017 - Last Updated on February 21, 2020

[toc]The year 2016 was not a particularly memorable one for Pennsylvania gaming efforts.

Attempts to get online poker stalled. A Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling resulted in major changes to the revenue model for brick and mortar casinos, too. The year ended with more questions than answers.

Local politicians intend to start 2017 out on a productive note, though.

State Senator Kim Ward is calling representatives from all 12 of the state’s casinos to Harrisburg on Jan. 3 to discuss the future of gambling in Pennsylvania.

The Mt. Airy lawsuit and new casino revenue challenges

Pennsylvania is now a major player in the casino world. It was the top tax revenue generator in the country last year, per the American Gaming Association. A lawsuit from Mt. Airy Casino in eastern Pennsylvania changed all that.

The casino brought the suit against the state to contest the amount of revenue the casinos had to pay to local county and municipality groups. State law mandated all casinos not located in Philadelphia or in the resort areas of Valley Forge and Nemacolin had to pay either $10 million or 2 percent of net revenue if revenue exceeded $500 million for the year.

The casino sued on the basis of fairness. Some casinos were required to pay higher rates than others.

The court agreed. The casino won in a September ruling. As a result, several local governments have seen revenue sources they were relying on drying up.

The state Senate managed to pass a bill which would create a temporary solution for a casino tax system. It also had different rates for the different properties. Mt. Airy threatened to sue again. The bill failed to make it through the House.

Time for action, or else, tax hikes loom for PA residents

After months without a resolution, Ward is ensuring 2017 begins with some sort of progress.

The Jan. 3 meeting is set for the first day in office for newly sworn-in state officials. The meeting will be behind closed doors.

Pittsburgh is the area hurting the most with the revenue changes. It is going to lose an estimated $10 million in tax money. The state gaming control board estimates a loss of roughly $140 million overall.

“The days of doing nothing are over at this point,” Ward told a local NBC affiliate.

Many local politicians expressed concerns the outcome of the suit could result in tax increases at the county level to address the shortfall.

Other possible issues on the table

The action takes place behind closed doors, so one can only conjecture other solutions and topics up for discussion at the summit.

Online gambling has already been a topic of discussion in the state. It is a means to increase tax revenue without adding more competition on the brick and mortar front.

More competition in terms of land-based casino may be unavoidable. Slots parlors are another possible option for expansion for the state.

There is always a chance the state approves more casinos. Several new properties have opened recently, including SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia and Valley Forge Casino Resort. The new Live! Casino in Philadelphia is currently in development as well.

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is a contributor to PlayPennsylvania and managing editor of PlayIndiana and PlayTenn. A longtime poker media presence, Jess has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com.

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