Pennsylvania casinos’ adding more table games, while reducing their slot machines, should come as no surprise.
Under the state’s tax rates, the house gets to keep a bigger share of each dollar lost at the blackjack table, as compared to a buck gobbled up by a one-armed bandit. So, moves in the last year to reduce slot machines at five locations, while table games were added at seven betting parlors, were all about the bottom line.
Casino operators hope more table games will draw more gamblers of all stripes, but over the long term that trend may be bad for tax relief provided by gaming. Indeed, property-tax reductions this year will decrease slightly. That’s not entirely attributable to gamblers' moving from slots to roulette, but it appears to be a growing part of the revenue picture.
In about a year, the state’s slice of table-game winnings will shrink by law when a lower tax rate of only 14 percent kicks in, while slots revenues will continue to be taxed at 55 percent.
Experts predict table games will lose their allure over time. That, along with increasing competition in neighboring states, may make Pennsylvania’s bet on casinos a loser. But the state Gaming Control Board has shown no inclination to refuse the casinos’ requests to expand table games.
More table games also opens up the possibility of larger wagers, which could boost problem gambling and related social ills. But neither the industry nor regulators are saying much about that.
It certainly makes more sense than ever to enact legislation that would require casinos to send monthly statements to patrons to help head off problem gambling. The committee-approved measure sponsored by state Rep. Paul Clymer (R., Bucks) is due for a full House vote. Passing the legislation is the responsible course.