HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — As state lawmakers struggle to find ways to balance the state’s budget deficit, some say it’s time to legalize video gaming terminals — or VGTs — in Pennsylvania’s bars and taverns.
“It’s time to bring these out of the shadows, legalize them, tax them, make sure we get consumer protections in place, and make sure we get the revenue from an industry that is already here,” says PA Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, a Jefferson Hills Republican.
But others worry this will hurt the state’s casinos and the dollars they generate.
“Less dollars for the city, less dollars for the county, less dollars for property tax and rent rebate, and also less dollars for our lottery programs,” declares PA Sen. Jay Costa, a Forest Hills Democrat.
In advertisements running in most state media markets, a group called Pennsylvanians for Responsible Government repeats that claim.
AD: “Video gambling machines are about to pop up everywhere. Will there be any place left to take our kids?”
Over $1.5 million has been spent on this media campaign to keep VGTs out of Pennsylvania, and the man behind the money — Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire who owns the Sands Casino in Las Vegas and another one in Bethlehem, Pa.
Adelson, a major Republican donor who pledged $100 million to the Trump campaign last year, is funding the group that argues VGTs expands gaming too much.
“Do we want, effectively, what would be mini-casinos open on every corner of every neighborhood of Pennsylvania?” says Michael Barley, a spokesperson for Pennsylvanians for Responsible Government.
“Secondly, we have 18,000 people that rely on the Pennsylvania casinos for jobs.”
But the VGT industry says the casinos are just afraid of competition.
“They would like to protect their monopoly. They don’t want anyone else in their game,” Rich Teitelbaum, president of the PA Video Gaming Association told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday.
“The customer that is in a tavern, that is in a club, is not the same person that is going to the casino.”
And proponents of VGTs claim big revenue for the state.
“We can project up to $380 million if not up to $500 million once we get VGTs up and running,” claims Reschenthaler.