Where Everybody Knows Your Game: A PA Senator Wants to Bring Sports Betting Kiosks to Pennsylvania Bars

Posted By Katie Kohler on September 2, 2021 - Last Updated on September 3, 2021

Could sports betting kiosks be coming to your favorite corner bar?

Senator Wayne D. Fontana (D-42) hopes so. Fontana introduced a bill that would allow sports betting kiosks in bars. The legislation would require a Pennsylvania casino to purchase the tavern/bar’s sports wagering betting certificate in order for the tavern/bar to have sports betting kiosks. Pennsylvania casinos would get 75% of the gross terminal revenue from each kiosk and the bar would get the other 25%.

“I believe this proposal will help bolster both state revenue and the incomes of these small businesses struggling as a result of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Fontanta.

Fontana pointed out that Pennsylvania legislators have introduced a number of proposals to expand legalize gambling to help local bars.

“Most proposals have failed or, if enacted, have had moderate success,” he told PlayPennsylvania in an email. “Our local bars and taverns are still asking for help and need it now more than ever considering the impact the pandemic has had on these small businesses over the last 18 months.”

Sports betting kiosks coming to PA bars?

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board would issue the sports betting certificates if legislation passes. The casinos that are issued the sports wagering certificate would have to pay the state a $10,000 fee to place kiosks in bars. The bar would get a $100 fee from the casinos for housing the kiosks.

The bill does not include a limit on the number of betting kiosks.

Some main points of terminal placement agreements in Fontana’s legislation state:

  • Bars/taverns must have a valid liquor license.
  • Winning tickets would be able to be redeemed at the bar or the casino which holds the license.
  • Adequate security and surveillance measures.
  • Placement agreements valid for a minimum 60-month term but not to exceed a 120- month term.

The 25% cut for the bars and taverns is a starting point for discussion.

“Like all legislation, this will be a negotiation and we’ll need to find rates that are both acceptable and profitable for the taverns and casinos,” said Fontana. “If the various stakeholders have different thoughts on the rate, I’m willing to listen and, if necessary, amend SB 843 to reflect an agreed to deal. I have been in talks with the Pennsylvania Tavern Association on SB 843 about suggestions they thought would make the legislation stronger and help Pennsylvania’s bars and taverns stay afloat. Overall, they have expressed appreciation for my efforts and had no outward concerns.”

A bill to help bars fighting to survive

Fontana said his Senate bill takes a different approach than the others since it allows bars and taverns to partner with PA casinos.

“Sports betting has been a great success in the commonwealth and the market is still growing. I believe those numbers will only increase if SB 843 is enacted and our bars and taverns will reap the benefits as they struggle to survive the pandemic.”

For Fontana, this is “COVID-19 response” bill. The Pennsylvania Senate returns to session at the end of September,

“My hopes are that those that would be impacted by SB 843 would begin to lobby for its immediate passage, The sooner a bill like this is considered, the sooner we can assist the bars and taverns in recovering from the financial devastation they’ve endured since March of 2020. Too many bars and taverns were forced to permanently close because of the pandemic. We should do our part to help those that survived get back on their feet. Hopefully, the Republican majorities in the legislature will consider this bill early this fall so we don’t waste any more time or lose any more small businesses. “

A record year for sports betting in PA

There are currently thirteen sports betting apps that allow you to wager anywhere in the state if you are 21+. June ended a record-breaking fiscal year for Pennsylvania sportsbooks. During FY 2020/2021, PA sportsbooks had a record $5.6 billion handle and $440.6 million in revenue. Over 90% of all wagers were placed online.

In addition to mobile sports betting apps, you can place bets at retail sportsbooks at Pennsylvania casinos and two off-track betting locations.

In FY 2020/2021, sports betting apps in PA combined for $392.4 million in revenue. Retail sportsbooks combined for $48.2 million in revenue.

Betting at Chickie’s and Pete’s

Off-track and sports betting is coming to a popular Pennsylvania sports bar. Parx is relocating off-track-betting operations of the now-closed Oaks Race and Sportsbook to a new Chickie’s and Pete’s in Chester County. Chickie’s and Pete’s in the Grove Shopping Center in Malvern should open by the end of the year.

In late June, the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission approved plans.

Joe Wilson, the COO of Parx, said:

“We’d like to open several of these. This is what we see as the future,” he added. “Nobody wants to walk into an empty bar. It’s the same way with an OTB.”

A spokesperson for the PGCB explained that the Gaming Act permits sports betting at non-primary/pari-mutuel wagering locations of the Category 1 casino license holders. The PGCB would not need to “license” a sportsbook location at Chickie’s and Pete’s in Chester County. Instead, they would review and approve the area where the kiosks are  located to ensure it meets regulatory requirements.

Can sports betting kiosks help local bars?

Pennsylvania bars and restaurants were heavily impacted by the coronavirus. During the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic, many closed or pivoted to takeout only. Then, state guidelines required reduced capacity and an earlier-than usual last call for alcohol sales. Now, restaurants are facing a labor shortage and disruptions in the supply chain.

Tom McGrath, managing partner of Screwballs, a bar and restaurant in King of Prussia, shared his thoughts on Fontana’s legislation:

“I would welcome the gambling kiosks and definitely think it would bring back the bar and restaurant from the COVID crisis. But depending on the situation and upkeep of these machines, I feel that 25% to us is not enough.”

Lead photo of sports betting kiosks at Valley Forge Casino by Katie Kohler

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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist. She is the Managing Editor at PlayPennsylvania and covers the Pennsylvania gambling industry with an emphasis on sports betting, online casino/poker and the lottery.

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