Pashinski introduces video gaming bill
HARRISBURG - A Luzerne County lawmaker has just introduced a bill to legalize video gaming machines while Harrisburg prepares for the biggest debate over gambling expansion in a decade.
The comprehensive measure sponsored by Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-121, Wilkes-Barre, would enable restaurants, bars and clubs with liquor licenses to operate up to three video gaming machines. The video gaming machines would be connected to the Pennsylvania Lottery's Central Computer to provide for online tracking of revenue collections. Pashinski said the state revenue controls are an important part of his legislation.
Pashinski proposes to allocate 45 percent of total revenue for school property tax rebates with a 23 percent share going to the licensee, 22 percent share to licensed vendors, five percent for host municipalities and five percent to licensed casinos. He said those percentages can be negotiated if the bill makes headway in the House.
A key goal is to continue the state's commitment to reducing the burden of property taxes, Pashinski said. This currently takes the form of an annual earmark of revenue from casinos legalized in 2004 for school property tax relief.
A local share, he said, could provide money for Wilkes-Barre to buy needed police cruisers.
The bill includes provisions for background investigations of applicants by the state police, registration fees and requirements to keep machines away from areas easily accessible by minors.
Bills to legalize video gaming machines have seen traction before most recently during the lengthy 2009 state budget impasse. But lawmakers chose to legalize table games at casinos instead.
Pashinski's bill surfaces with state lawmakers eyeing expanded gambling as another tough budget year approaches. Higher costs for public pensions and medical assistance will outpace anticipated state tax revenue growth, said state Budget Secretary Charles Zogby last month.
Pennsylvania enacted a law last November legalizing several small games of chance for taverns in part to help ease budgetary pressures. The Senate voted the same month to authorize a study of the casino industry and the possibility of online gambling in order to meet competition from expanded gambling in neighboring states.
The Senate plans public hearings soon on proposals to legalize Keno as a means of supporting the Pennsylvania Lottery.