PA Skill Games Bill With 16% Tax Referred To Gaming Oversight Committee

Written By Corey Sharp on February 29, 2024
Image showing a judge's gavel along with the PA state outline featuring the words

House Bill 2075, an act that imposes taxes on Pennsylvania skill games, was referred to the Gaming Oversight Committee earlier this week. Representative Danilo Burgos introduced the bill as the primary sponsor in September 2023.

The bill is picking up momentum as it moves to the Gaming Oversight Committee. Earlier this month, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced plans to regulate and tax Pennsylvania skill games in his proposed FY 2024/2025 budget.

While skill games appear to be headed for regulation, there’s a lot that needs to be sorted out before it happens.

Pennsylvania skill games bill from September 2023 finally gains traction

Once the Commonwealth Court ruled skill games as legal last December, it seemed inevitable that the machines were here to stay, despite opposition from the regulated industry.

Retail casinos feel that the games take away business, including from PA online casinos, while also lacking consumer protections. However, another step was taken to the eventual regulation of skill games.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly announced that HB 2075 has been referred to the Gaming Oversight, where Representative Burgos is a secretary of the committee.

Burgos sent a memo when he introduced the bill last September, stating that many small businesses rely on skill games to pay the bills. He wrote:

“In communities around the Commonwealth, local businesses are still feeling the economic effects as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, skill video games, which offer players the potential to win money relative to a person’s ability to master the game, have given businesses new life during the pandemic, helping them to weather the economic storm. Currently, a lack of regulations around skill video games is a missed opportunity for not only Pennsylvania businesses, but also their surrounding communities.”

Despite Burgos’ sentiments, Parx Casino CEO Eric Hausler told PlayPennsylvania earlier this month that skill games are too similar to slot machines. He said:

“We still believe that the old adage applies: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.”

Despite the difference of opinions, the skill games debate is starting to reach the finish line.

Differences between HB 2075 and Gov. Shapiro’s plan to tax PA skill games

The end is in sight as the games are likely to be taxed as Gov. Shapiro alluded to in his proposed budget. However, Burgos and Shapiro are not on the same page.

Burgos’ bill plans to tax skill games at a 16% rate as regulation would fall under the Department of Revenue. The games would generate “close to $300 million in revenue in the first year,” according to Burgos.

Gov. Shapiro planned for a steep 42% tax on skill games, with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) regulating the machines. According to the budget, Shapiro estimates the games will generate more than $150 million in the first year. Skill machines could produce over $313 million in tax earnings in the second year of regulation.

The numbers could be thrown off even more if certain counties, such as Philadelphia, ban skill games altogether. A new bill has been introduced to prohibit machines in Philadelphia corner stores because of public safety concerns.

Lawmakers must take everything into account and be on the same page before skill games get officially regulated in Pennsylvania.

Photo by PlayPennsylvania
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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp is the Lead Writer at PlayPennsylvania bringing you comprehensive coverage of sports betting and gambling in Pennsylvania. Corey is a 4-for-4 Philly sports fan and previously worked as a writer and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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