Lawmakers Confirm Legalizing VGTs a Must Have for Closing Out State Budget
HARRISBURG – With a downtown Harrisburg convenience store in the background, Reps. Mark Mustio (R-Allegheny), Kurt Masser (R-Columbia/Montour/Northumberland) and Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster) hosted a press conference to re-emphasize the far-reaching economic benefits of legalizing Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) to help close out the 2017-18 state budget.

“Talk about an absolutely frustrating, text book example of unregulated gambling, the convenience store across the street from this location contains a ‘smart’ gambling machine where individuals of all ages from children to senior citizens can walk in and gamble,” said Mustio. “Perhaps even more frustrating, when it comes to closing our state’s budget deficit, absolutely none of this smart gambling machine revenue is being collected by the Commonwealth.”

Included in the omnibus gaming reform legislation (House Bill 271) awaiting consideration in the state Senate, VGTs would be legalized in Pennsylvania liquor licensed establishments only, including bars, clubs, hotels, restaurants, truck stops and VFWs.

“This is the only part of the gaming proposal that truly isn’t expanding gaming, it is simply regulating what is already occurring,” Masser said. “The casinos have blocked the small businesses – clubs and fire companies – from participating with these video gaming terminals. This would be a way for our small businesses to help pay the bills, to help pay their employees a little bit better wage. They exist in Pennsylvania now, but they’re unregulated. They need to be regulated to ensure fairness to taxpayers, business owners and the people playing the VGTs. A couple hundred million dollars is a realistic amount that VGTs could bring to the state.”

House Bill 271 also recognizes that tens of thousands of illegal, untaxed and unregulated video gambling devices are already operating throughout Pennsylvania. As a result, the bill would contain an amnesty period to eliminate those machines and then make it a felony offense to be in possession or use of a machine not tied into the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

“The proposals we have put forward are to try to regulate a competitive, tax paying industry that benefits the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Sturla. “It’s about time to do what’s right; regulate VGTs and move forward.”

In addition to bringing oversight and accountability where it currently does not exist, legalizing VGTs would finally capture underground video gaming revenue to bolster Main Street and help balance the state budget.

“Diversification is absolutely necessary because Pennsylvania’s brick-and-mortar casinos are leaving too much of the market untapped, which translates into $500 million in tax and fee revenue for the General Fund that is otherwise left on the table each year,” concluded Mustio. “Moving forward, fully legalizing VGTs would bring in a significant and consistent source of recurring revenue to help avoid future budget deficits and pay for education, pensions and mounting state police budgets—all without the need for a second natural gas extraction tax or broad-based sales or income tax increases.”

Representative Mark Mustio
44th District
Representative Mike Sturla
96th District
Representative Kurt Masser
107th District

Media Contact: Ty McCauslin

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