Senate leader seeks gambling study
HARRISBURG - New competition from surrounding states and sluggish revenue reports are prompting a Senate Republican leader to seek a formal study of the future viability of Pennsylvania casinos.
President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-25, Jefferson County, is introducing a resolution to have the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, a research arm, conduct the study.
"Sen. Scarnati strongly believes that we need a professional study of the gaming laws in Pennsylvania compared to the laws in other states and make recommendations regarding possible amendments to Pennsylvania's laws in order that we maximize profit and enforcement," said top Scarnati aide Drew Crompton.
Depending upon legislative action, the study could occur during the 10th anniversary of the 2004 law state legalizing casinos in Pennsylvania.
A legislative memo refers to the emergence of an "extremely competitive" gambling market in the Mid-Atlantic region as Pennsylvania's neighbors pursue new venues.
Most notably, New York voters approved a ballot question last week to authorize the opening of new casinos beyond those in Native American reservations. The vote will allow as many as seven casinos to be built, including some potentially in the Catskill Mountains.
Scarnati's memo was made public a day before the New York vote.
"We knew of the additional likely competition from New York, but that was not the primary motivation for the resolution," Crompton said.
He also mentioned competition from New Jersey, where Atlantic City casinos plan to offer online gambling later this month. The research committee would study tax structures and regulations of gambling in Pennsylvania and other states, as well as the impact of online gambling.
The memo suggests that while Pennsylvania's 12 casinos have been a huge success, employing 16,000 and generating more than $6 billion in tax revenue from slot machines and table games for a variety of purposes, casino revenues have begun to stagnate or decline.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported a slight increase in total gross revenue from slot machines last month, compared to revenue in October 2012. Gross revenue increased 0.3 percent. Gross revenue increased 2.69 percent at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and revenue declined 3.39 percent at Mount Airy Casino Resort in this comparison, the gaming board said.
More competition affects casino revenue, gaming board officials say.
"We're seeing increased competition on the western border with Ohio and our southern border with Maryland," said gaming board spokesman Doug Harbach. "There is heightened marketing in Atlantic City casinos."