Pennsylvania Sports Wagering Bill Seeks Bar and Restaurant Gambling Kiosks

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The ever-growing industry in Pennsylvania could soon grow even bigger.

This week, state Senator Fontana (D-Pittsburgh) initiated legislation that would allow sports betting counters inside restaurants and bars to have valid state-issued liquor permits.

Senate Bill 843 would permit current betting sites licensees that run land-based or online sports betting to partner with bars. Under Fontana’s legislation, a restaurant would retain 25% of their sports betting counter’s gross revenue. The remaining 75% would go to the betting site operator and their joint land-based casino.

Fontana said:

“I believe this proposal will help bolster state revenue and the incomes of these small businesses struggling as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.”

In Pennsylvania, 15 casinos are running sports betting and two off-track sportsbooks. In addition, gamblers over the age of 21 inside the state can access 13 online betting sites.

Local business benefit

Fontana’s SB 843 is far more about small taverns and restaurants than in the big gaming industry.

In terms of sports wagering, casino and sportsbooks take most of their activities online. More than 80 cents of each dollar gambled on sports is facilitated via the internet.

For instance, in July, 86.5% of the $19.8 million oddsmakers won from sports wagers was generated online. Retail bets made less than $2.7 million of the sports betting win.

July marked a record month’s total revenue hitting almost $413.2 million for the Pennsylvania gaming industry. The number is the top of revenue from casino tables games and slot machines, iGaming, truck stop gaming, retail and mobile sports, and fantasy sports.

SB seeks to extend some of the gambling action to face-to-face small businesses. The Senator described:

“What these numbers reveal is that Pennsylvania’s casinos and gaming industries are not only doing well during these difficult economic times but are actually thriving. At the same time, the state’s taverns have suffered greatly because of mandated shut-downs due to the COVID-19 pandemic,”

Senator Fontana further added:

“Thinking outside of the box and a new way to bring additional income to local taverns, I introduced Senate Bill 843. Although a tavern would only get a small stipend from the kiosk play, my bill would still grant local businesses with a new source of revenue, which is welcome news for many. With the commonwealth gaming industry being the second-largest in the nation, only behind Nevada, I feel that the partnership between a struggling tavern and profitable casinos would be one more tool in aiding in the survival of local bars.”

In addition to the 25% revenue cut, SB 843 would require every casino or betting site to pay the tavern $100 per month per gambling kiosk it holds.

Committee target

Fontana’s gambling kiosk directive has been directed to the Senate Community, Economic & Recreation Development Committee for first consideration. However, the committee has a huge, complex task before it; skill-based gaming.

The unlicensed, unregulated, and untaxed contentious gaming machines have saturated bars and restaurants, along with general and grocery stores. Whole retail spaces in shopping malls have even been committed to the terminals.
Casinos claim that the skill games are nothing more than intelligently created slot machines. However, the terminal manufacturers state that they don’t constitute wagering due to skill competence. Restaurant owners and other businesses say that the devices have created much-needed revenue in the pandemic aftermath.

COVID-19 significantly impacted Pennsylvania bars and restaurants. Amid the first few months of the pandemic, many closed and turn to takeaway only. Then, state directives called for reduced capacity and an earlier-than-usual last call for liquor sales. Currently, restaurants are struggling with labor shortages and inconvenience in the supply chain.