Pennsylvania Sports Betting Bill Seeks Bar and Restaurant Wagering Kiosks

Posted on: September 3, 2021, 12:09h. 

Last updated on: September 3, 2021, 03:50h.

The ever-expanding gaming industry in Pennsylvania could soon grow even larger. This week State Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Pittsburgh) introduced legislation that would permit sports betting kiosks inside bars and restaurants that have valid state-issued liquor licenses.

Pennsylvania sports betting tavern gaming kiosk
A controversial skill gaming machine is pictured in a Pennsylvania bar area. New legislation seeks to allow licensed liquor businesses to place sports betting kiosks in their establishments. (Image: Associated Press)

Senate Bill 843 would allow current sportsbook licensees that operate land-based and/or online sports betting to partner with taverns. Under Fontana’s law, a restaurant would retain 25 percent of the gross revenue their sports betting kiosk generates. The remaining 75 percent would go to the sportsbook operator and their tethered land-based casino.

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,” Fontana said.

Sports betting is operational at 15 casinos in Pennsylvania, plus two off-track betting facilities. In addition, bettors over the age of 21 inside the state can access 13 online sportsbooks.

Local Business Benefit

Fontana’s SB 843 is much more about small restaurants and watering holes than it is about the massive gaming industry.

In terms of sports betting, casinos and sportsbooks take the vast majority of their activities online. In fact, more than 80 cents of each dollar wagered on sports is facilitated through the internet.

For example, in July, 86.4 percent of the $19.8 million oddsmakers won from sports bettors was made online. Retail bets generated less than $2.7 million of the sports wagering win.

July marked a record month for the Pennsylvania gaming industry, with total revenue just shy of $413.2 million. The number is the culmination of revenue from casino slot machines and table games, iGaming, retail and mobile sports betting, truck stop gaming, and fantasy sports.

SB 843 seeks to spread some of the sports betting action to brick-and-mortar small businesses.

What these numbers reveal is that Pennsylvania’s casinos and gaming industries are not only doing well during these difficult economic times, but are actually thriving. At the same time, the state’s taverns have suffered greatly because of mandated shut-downs due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Fontana explained.

“Although a tavern would only get a small stipend from kiosk play, my bill would still grant local businesses with a new source of revenue, which is welcome news for many,” Fontana said. “With the commonwealth gaming industry being the second-largest in the nation, only behind Nevada, I feel that the partnership between a struggling tavern and the profitable casinos would be one more tool in aiding in the survival of local bars.”

Along with the 25 percent revenue cut, SB 843 would require each casino/sportsbook to pay the tavern $100 per month per sports betting kiosk it houses.

Committee Focus

Fontana’s sports betting kiosk measure has been directed to the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee for initial consideration. But the committee has a major, complicated task before it: skill-based gaming.

The unregulated, untaxed, and unlicensed controversial gaming machines have infiltrated bars and restaurants, as well as convenience and grocery stores. Entire retail spaces in shopping malls have even been devoted to the terminals.

Casinos argue that the skill games are nothing more than cleverly designed slot machines. The terminal manufacturers say they do not constitute gambling because of the skill component. Restauranteurs and other businesses reason that the devices have generated much-needed revenue in wake of the pandemic.