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Casino Poker Games Becoming a Reality in Pennsylvania

New State Budget Allots Revenue from Table Games


Pennsylvania will very likely soon be hosting live poker games.It’s been said so many times before — the tough economic times will almost surely force states into at least considering whether or not to expand their gaming options for much-needed revenue, and that expansion could bring poker into new areas of the country.

Well, it appears that Pennsylvania is one of those areas.

After a 101-day standoff, Gov. Ed Rendell finally signed the Pennsylvania state budget late last week. A critical part of that budget sets aside $200 million in projected revenue that the state expects to make when it allows the addition of table games such as poker, blackjack, and craps to its slot parlors and racetracks.

While the bill that actually authorizes the institution of table games has not yet arrived at Gov. Rendell’s desk, the fact that the recently passed state budget is allotting funds from said table games indicates that it’s only a matter of time before live poker games arrive to the Keystone State.

Last week, the Republican-led state senate passed a tables game bill 29-20. If the House makes any changes to the bill, the Senate will have to vote again on the new bill. Legislators have said that they hope to get this bill complete within the next couple weeks.

“It’s not a matter of ‘if,’” a spokesman for Pennsylvania’s House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, a Democrat, said last week when discussing table games in the state. “It’s a matter of ‘how.’”

The details are still very much up for grabs. Proposals for the new table games have tax rates that the casinos would have to pay ranging from 12-37 percent, and casino licenses for the table games ranging from $10-$20 million. The bill that passed in the Senate set the tax rate at 12 percent for the state (plus an additional 2 percent for the municipality), and an initial $15 million license fee for large resort casinos (while smaller resort casinos would only have to pay $7.5 million).

Legislators in the House have called for a 34 percent tax in the past, but have said as recently as last week that they would be willing to compromise to a tax rate “in the high teens.”

There is no indication that the proposed poker games would have any kind of a cap or limit on them, like states such as Florida have instituted. The casino operators are hopeful that the games can replicate the ones in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

The state’s gaming control board has asked for six to nine months to regulate the new games once the governor signs the bill, so it appears very possible that poker games could be running in Pennsylvania within a year. Several casinos have already begun preparing for the legislation’s passage by removing slot machines and making space for the new tables.

The progression toward table games in the state was surprising to a lot of people, especially considering state representatives’ recent objections to the idea. Many state legislators and even the governor spoke out against adding table games in the past year, but the more they looked at the numbers in the state budget, the more ground they wound up giving.

Even after signing the state budget, Gov. Rendell acknowledged that he was conflicted about the gaming issue.

“I think that table games [are] slightly premature for Pennsylvania,” the governor said. “But given the financial exigencies, and given the reluctance of the legislature to do any broad-base tax, table games were almost a necessity here.”



over 12 years ago

Republicans! Imagine that! Meanwhile, the Democrat-dominated U.S. Congress is shufflin' along, taking its good old time agreeing to Barney Frank's proposal for a one-year review and reconsideration period wrt UIGEA. Perhaps voting for Obama wasn't such a great idea after all...


over 12 years ago

Hell yes, as I live in PA I won't have to head to WV anymore.


over 12 years ago

Won't be that hard, and the rake should not even be that high, unless you have Harrahs involved, then it's a whole new ball game. They charge more, give less then any company in the world.
Use good management, and again, keep Harrahs out, and it will be a success.


Beau Koo Jack
over 12 years ago

No matter what the issue is some a-hole finds a way to disrespect Obama. The UIGEA was written, voted on and signed into law by Republican'ts. Voting for Bush was DEFINITELY not a great idea.