Pennsylvania Lawmaker Wants Slots In Airports

Posted on: June 29, 2015, 12:17h. 

Last updated on: October 16, 2015, 10:35h.

Pennsylvania has already implemented several rounds of gambling expansion in recent years, and lawmakers are looking are more ways to keep up with the increasingly competitive gaming market in the Northeastern United States, including online gambling.

Last week, one state Representative is proposing a new bill that would allow slot machines at international airports throughout the state.

The legislation comes from Representative Nick Kotik (D-Coraopolis), and would apply to the six international airports throughout Pennsylvania.

Those include Philadelphia International Airport, Pittsburgh International Airport, and the Harrisburg International Airport.

Airports Would Partner with Casinos

Were the bill to go into law, airports wouldn’t immediately be able to install slot machines and begin collecting revenue. They would first have to partner with one of Pennsylvania’s land-based casinos in order to gain the state’s approval to host the gambling machines.

The revenues would then be split between the airport, the casino operator they had partnered with, and a new state fund that would encourage the merger of municipal government services. 

Kotik says that the new machines could help Pennsylvania deal with increasing competition from New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Ohio. The slot machines would only be available in secure areas behind TSA checkpoints.

“Airport slot machines could only be used by ticketed passengers,” Kotik said. “The normal day-to-day activities at these airports would not be interrupted. The way the profits would be shared, it’s a win-win for the airports.”

Only Nevada Currently Has Airport Slots

The idea of having slot machines in an airport is not a new one, but it is not a very widespread practice in the United States.

Nevada is currently the only state that allows the machines in airports, as both McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and Reno-Tahoe International Airport have the games.

The measure was met with some skepticism by state officials, either because of concerns about having slot machines at airports or because of questions about just how much revenue they would bring in.

“We are a terminal where people start and end their flights,” said Bi-County Airport Board chairman Rick Williams, speaking about the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport. “It is not a hub where people pass through.”

Others, like state Representative Sid Michaels Kavulich (D-Taylor), questioned whether more gambling options in the state was really good for the market.

“I don’t think we need to dilute the market any more with casino type gaming,” said Kavulich.

But Kotik said that in general, the flow of bodies through the state’s airports could provide plenty of customers interested in a convenient gambling option.

“Airports have a steady stream of people going in and going out,” Kotik said. “Real dollars in, real dollars out. Electing to play a slot machine while waiting to board a flight translates back into real help for the state.”

Kotik is the ranking Democrat on the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee. That committee and others are considering a number of options for expanded gambling in the state, including several proposals that would allow for online gambling.

Other proposals include offering satellite slots parlors at off-track betting locations, as well as allowing licensed casinos in the state to offer fantasy sports tournaments to players.