Hearings look into how Pa. casinos can stay competitive

(Harrisburg) — The state House Gaming Oversight Committee has opened a series of hearings this month on how Pennsylvania casinos can remain competitive.

The first was held Monday in Dauphin County.

As gambling continues to expand in neighboring states, casino operators across the commonwealth are warning state lawmakers about enacting laws and policies that would hurt their ability to compete.

That includes smoking bans and Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed tax on promotional credits, which Penn National Senior Vice President John Finamore calls a gift to neighboring states

“Yeah, the reality is that the only folks who would be happy with this would be the neighboring jurisdictions,” he said. “They would be applauding the fact that Pennsylvania would consider taxing promotional credits.”

Finamore and other casino operators had a sympathetic ear in Gaming Oversight Chairman John Payne, a Republican from Dauphin County.

He says the commonwealth’s casinos do need to stay competitive with a growing number of gaming facilities across state borders.

“It’s no secret that when Ohio opened, it had a big impact on our casinos in Pittsburgh and Erie, Erie in particular,” he said. “Nemacolin is feeling the stress and the pressure. If, in fact, two casinos opened in northern New Jersey, I would think it would have a severe impact on our casinos in the Poconos and the eastern part of the state.”

Governor Tom Wolf included the proposal to tax promotional credits in his budget proposal for 2016-17.

The hearing was held at Dauphin County’s Hollywood Casino, with additional ones by the House Gaming Oversight Committee scheduled later this month, at Valley Forge Casino and Resort and Parx Casino in Bensalem.