Senate rejects small game amendment
A plan by state Democrats to direct new tax money from small games of chance in bars and taverns into the Pennsylvania Lottery failed in the Senate, despite support from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
Minority leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said on Friday he’s hopeful the final version of House Bill 1098 will include a similar measure. The Senate proposal would have routed an estimated $156 million a year toward programs and services for senior citizens and efforts to freeze property tax rates for seniors.
“Without this amendment, the money goes into the general fund,” said Ben Waxman, spokesman for the appropriations committee chairman, Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia. “They’re sending it into a black hole.”
The tax is expected to generate at least $36 million by year’s end, according to Senate fiscal notes.
The legislation, without the amendment, passed the Senate, 39-11. It returns to the House.
Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna, who sponsored the lottery initiative with Hughes, said the House might vote to re-legislate the bill, but he isn’t optimistic.
“It’s disappointing that we didn’t get further,” Blake said. “My original proposal wouldn’t have impacted tax collection until 2015-16. We need money for the lottery fund, and, personally, I’d rather know where this new cash is going.”
Pennsylvania has one of the nation’s largest senior populations, said Jay Pagni, Corbett’s spokesman.
“We need to look at any revenue stream we can to address the financial pressures facing not only the lottery fund, but the programs for older Pennsylvanians it supports,” Pagni said. “Our hope, obviously, is that the House will step up and work together to pass their own amendment.”
Small games of chance, under state law, include raffles, pull-tabs, punchboards and daily and weekly drawings, according to the Department of Revenue. The tax collected varies by game.
Gambling industry leaders and state regulators discussed legalized online gambling this week at a gaming conference, the World Regulatory Briefing USA, in Philadelphia.
Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey legalized online gambling to generate more tax revenue. State officials said before the conference that online gambling is not a priority, nor is it under consideration in Pennsylvania.
Megan Harris is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or [email protected].