08 January 2010

Gambling Becomes a Topic for the 2010 Session

Pennsylvania plans to add casino table games to its fairly new array of slot machine halls, "upping the ante in the increasingly fierce competition among states for gamblers’ money," The Associated Press reports.

Gov. Ed Rendell signed the necessary measure Thursday, and noted that "not all of the 14 casinos authorized by the 2004 law that legalized slot machine gambling are up and running."

The article also said that "it may be more than six months before the first cards are dealt." But the inevitable competition to the Northern Panhandle's casinos has West Virginia lawmakers telling The Intelligencer of Wheeling they expect job losses and blunted revenues.

West Virginia's racetrack interests had repeatedly lobbied the Legislature for casino-style tables games. They touted this expansion of gambling as a way for their video lottery machines to compete with the slot casinos emerging in Pennsylvania.

But Maryland has since legalized slot machines, while Ohio voters approved casinos for that state's major cities in November.

The Charleston Daily Mail recently reported on the lottery as a key but faltering source of state revenues. The Wheeling article suggests the situation could prompt a fresh wave of lobbying at the upcoming legislative session.

"We must look at the taxation we impose on these operations," Sen. Ed Bowman, D-Hancock (and an employee of Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort in Chester) told the newspaper

"Though West Virginia taxes table games at a 35 percent clip, Pennsylvania plans to impose only a 16 percent tax on the tables, with the rate scheduled to fall to 14 percent after two years," the article explains. "The Keystone State taxes slot machines at 55 percent, compared to West Virginia's 42 percent."

The general manager of Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack had earlier told the newspaper that "If Pennsylvania gets (table) tax rates in the 20s, we are going to be at a severe competitive disadvantage."

"I would say the (West Virginia) Legislature will be against lowering these tax rates," Bowman is quoted as saying. "If these tax rates lead to the closure of the tracks, they (legislators) will regret it."

1 comment:

clear eyes said...

Time to "up the ante" again, so to speak. What do we have left to "raise the stakes" in this game of poker against neighboring states? How about if we legalize prostitution and have the government take a huge cut of that? Will they "see our raise again?"