Legislators Wambling with PA Table Games

After reportedly taking “WAMs” out of the state budget, it appears Pennsylvania lawmakers are may create a new pot of funds for WAMs in the table games bill – i.e. WAMs from Gambling, or “Wambling.” From the Morning Call:

Rep. Craig Dally, R-Northampton, said he is concerned about the local distribution of slot machine money, which in some cases differs from region to region. In Luzerne County, for instance, the money would be used to underwrite economic development projects that some deride as little more than government-funded pork.

Indeed the omnibus (gut-and-replace) amendment to be voted on (it is not available for viewing on the General Assembly’s website yet, but may appear here at some point) includes changes to the “local share” fund in the gaming code like:

  • $2.4 million per year for a community college campus in a county of the 5th class with a Category 2 casino (little help here: anyone know which class 5 county has a category 2 casino?)
  • Changing the language for 3rd class counties with Category 1 casinos (“racinos”) to fund “projects in the public interest” and do so via the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
  • New formula for distributing funds directly do municipalities in 4th class counties, with Category 1 casinos
  • The local share from Category 3 casinos in 2nd Class A counties shall be used for Business in our Sites, Tax Increment Financing Guarantee, and Water Supply and Wastewater Infrastructure Program.

Other things to look for or note in the table games debate:

  • The tax rate and license fees for tables games. The deal appears to include a $16.5 million fee for larger casinos, and $7.5 million for Category 3 casinos. The tax rate on table games would be 16% (14% for the state and 2% for the local share) in the first year, and 14% (same local share) thereafter.
  • Gambling on Credit. There has been some discussion of the ability of casinos to lend money directly to gamblers (i.e. open up a tab). See NoSlotsonCredit.org for more.
  • Money from video poker/video table games. Gross revenues from “fully automated electronic gaming tables” would be taxed at 34% tax (the same as slots), but the collections would go to the General Fund (at least until the Rainy Day Fund reaches $750 million, when funds from table games will go to the Property Tax Relief Fund). Will this undermine slots revenue, and if so, undermine the property tax relief moneys?
  • Ban on political contributions from gambling interests. The legislation would seek to reimpose a ban on political contributions to candidates for state office, which was recently struck down. We’re not sure how this version of a ban on contributions from a select group of people will meet Constitutional muster.