A Democrat in Pennsylvania’s state Senate has introduced legislation that would add kiosks in taverns as another sports betting outlet.
Senate Bill 843, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Fontana of Pittsburgh, was referred Monday to the Senate’s Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, of which he is a member. The Senate and House are both controlled by Republicans and the bill lists no co-sponsors, so there is no indication it is headed for any action or passage in the 2021-22 legislative session. The same Senate committee’s focus has been on hearings about what to do regarding unregulated gambling devices known as “skill game” machines that exist in taverns and other venues across the state.
A memo from Fontana to colleagues in May said he would propose the sports betting expansion in response to the revenue challenges faced by “local small bars and taverns” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Slot machine licensees will be required to purchase a tavern sports wagering certificate to conduct sports wagering in a tavern. The tavern will receive 25% of the gross terminal revenue from each kiosk located on the premises, with the casino receiving the other 75%,” his memo stated. “I believe this proposal will help bolster both state revenue and the incomes of these small businesses struggling as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.”
Betting kiosks in taverns are uncommon nationally
Pennsylvania already has in-person sports betting at 14 casinos and two off-track betting locations, in addition to the 13 online sportsbooks operating in the state. More than 90% of the betting occurs digitally by phone or computer.
Much of the betting in the retail locations, which accounted for $48.2 million of the statewide $308.8 million in sportsbook revenue in the 2020-21 fiscal year, occurred at self-service kiosks within the casinos. Overall, more than $5 billion was wagered legally on sports in Pennsylvania in the fiscal year.
Fontana wants taverns to be able to host those same type of kiosks, which they would do under an arrangement with a casino that has a sports wagering license. New tavern sports wagering certificates would be issued by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board after a review.
Casinos that conduct sports wagering would be required to pay a $10,000 fee for the opportunity to place kiosks in taverns. They would enter into a “terminal placement agreement” with any participating tavern, and the tavern would receive a $100 monthly siting fee from the casino for placement of a kiosk, in addition to receiving 25% of revenue. The bill states no cap on the number of kiosks.
While some two dozen states have legalized sports betting in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 2018 PASPA ruling that made it possible outside of Nevada, it is rare for the activity to be authorized in bars or taverns. Montana is one exception, where there is no online sports betting or casinos with sportsbooks, but any licensed liquor establishment can host sports betting terminals.
Photo: Gary Rotstein