SugarHouse and Parx casinos tops in 2016 slots revenue growth

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Slots revenues at the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia rose by almost 4 percent last year.

SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia and Parx Casino in Bensalem recorded the biggest percentage gains in slots winnings last year among Pennsylvania's 12 casinos, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said Thursday.

Gamblers' slots losses at SugarHouse reached $181.2 million last year, up nearly 4 percent. At Parx, which is tops in the state for slots and had its 10-year anniversary last month, gamblers lost $389 million, up 2.8 percent.

At Harrah's Philadelphia in Chester, slots revenues fell 5 percent, and at Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, they were down less than 1 percent.

Overall, slots revenue at the four casinos in the Philadelphia region totaled $855.68 million, up less than 1 percent, from $849.77 million in 2015.

Statewide, gamblers lost $2.36 billion playing slots last year at Pennsylvania casinos, down $5.5 million, or 0.23 percent, from the year before.

The casinos' take from slots players has hovered in the $2.3 billion range since 2013. Gamblers' slots losses in Pennsylvania topped out at $2.47 billion in 2012.

That lack of growth in tax revenue coupled with gaping state budget holes in Harrisburg has some Pennsylvania lawmakers eager to expand gambling in the state to include online games and fantasy sports, as well as certain forms of gambling at airports in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny) on Monday published a memorandum piggybacking on a House bill introduced last fall that would legalize internet gambling, imposing a 25 percent tax on the games, which is less than half the 54 percent tax on slot machines in bricks-and-mortar casinos.

Costa's plan also proposes a fix for the state's local tax on casinos that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared unconstitutional because it treats casinos differently depending on their size.

The local share assessment of 2 percent of slots revenue or $10 million, whichever is greater would be replaced by "an annual slot machine license renewal fee equal to 20 percent of the cost of the $50 million original slot machine license." 

"It will be challenged, I'm sure, but I think you have a great chance of winning that," said Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R., Bucks). 

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue will continue collecting the local share assessments until Jan. 26, though a movement is afoot in Harrisburg to ask the court for a 90-day extension.

Meanwhile, all of the casinos in Pennsylvania except Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem have agreed to continue making the local payments if the General Assembly fails to devise a solution, Tomlinson said.