Lawmakers in Pennsylvania finally passed final legislation last month to add table games to the state’s slots-only casinos. Governor Ed Rendell signed the bill into law January 7.
Under the new law, larger casinos-Category 1 racetrack casinos and Category 2 stand-alone casinos, each with 5,000-machine maximums-get up to 250 table games each. The smaller, 500-machine resort casinos will each be permitted to add up to 50 table games. The legislation also provides for an extra 100 slot machines at each of these venues, which are added to established hotel operations, and eases regulations that restricted play to hotel guests.
Approved table games include blackjack, craps, roulette and poker, with a provision included to allow casinos to run poker tournaments.
Passage of the legislation marks the end of a long and contentious process for Pennsylvania lawmakers, in which House Democrats and Senate Republicans haggled over license fees, the tax rate, and a number of provisions placed into the bill to funnel local municipal cuts of table revenues to what are seen by many as pet projects of certain lawmakers.
In the end, the new law taxes table game revenues at 16 percent, with 14 percent going to the state and 2 percent to be split between the local county and municipal entities. The state tax rate will drop to 12 percent within two years.
Casino owners say table games will be up and running within six months. New regulations also must be formulated for table game operations.
In addition to legalizing table games, the new law makes a few significant changes to the state’s 2004 gaming law. In a compromise to what was a controversial issue, the bidding will be re-opened for the last remaining current resort slot license, and a third resort license will be added in 2017-bringing Pennsylvania’s total venues to 15.
The law also reinstitutes a ban on political contributions by casino owners; allows casinos to extend credit to patrons, a practice formerly banned in the state; and tightens restrictions on outside employment by current and former gaming board members.