On Wednesday, August 14, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board held a hearing in Harrisburg that saw to the unfolding of a number of regulatory actions. However, most of the time was spent addressing three petitions that sought to reduce gaming floors at certain venues. The most notable petitions were filed by Presque Isle Downs Casino, The Meadows Casino, and Rivers Casino – the three casinos wanted the state gambling regulator to allow them to reduce their slot machine totals as part of their plans to enhance their gambling properties.
Rivers Casino wanted permission to remove 158 of its slot machines and this would bring its total to just a little of 2,600. Presque Isle Downs wanted to reduce its slot machines to 1,525 by removing 41 of them while The Meadows Casino was planning to drop 485 slot machines bringing the remaining slots to just a little over 2,500. Fortunately, the gaming control board chose to approve these plans after each of the three casino operators delivered explanatory presentations on why they had opted to remove the machines.
The Regulator’s Concerns
Even though the PGCB chose to approve the plans to reduce the slots machines, the members of the board still had some concerns especially considering 50 percent of slot machine revenue goes to the state in the form of tax revenue. The money collected is used to offset property taxes that the state’s residents pay.
Furthermore, all three casinos mentioned above are major contributors to the gambling tax revenue. In fact, in the recently concluded 2018/2019 financial year, they all reported gains in slot machine revenues – Rivers recorded $291.1 million (+6.15%), Meadows posted $211.9 million (+1.16%) while Presque Isle Downs posted $114.8 million (+0.39%).
As it turns, Presque Isle Downs even had plans to remove over 66 slot machines but this did not sit well with the gaming control board. Besides, according to the state’s gambling laws, casinos are required to have no less than 1,500 slot machines.
In their presentations, the casino operators defended their decisions especially in light of the tax revenue concerns that the PGCB had. Rivers Casino, for instance, pointed out that fewer slot machines will not necessarily translate to less slot machine revenue – the argument was that some slots are under-played and very old.
More from the Hearing
The slot machine reduction plans aside, there were other issues that were addressed during the hearing. Stadium Casino managed to renew its five-year license for its upcoming Philadelphia casino and Evolution New Jersey was awarded a conditional interactive gaming manufacturer license, giving it the ability to do business with PA online casinos.
Another important highlight was the regulator’s announcement that five of the state’s truck stops will begin VGT gambling in the coming month.