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Small games of chance legal, but few bars are bothering - abc27 WHTM

Small games of chance legal, but few bars are bothering

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

They are called "small games of chance."

Late last year, they became legal in bars, taverns and restaurants in Pennsylvania after much lobbying of the legislature.

And the budgetary impact of small pull tickets is not small.

Governor Corbett is counting on $102 million from these games in next year's budget.

But only six establishments statewide are in the application process, which opened a month ago. Lawmakers have noticed that the reception the law has gotten is frostier than an icy mug.

"This rollout is worse than Obamacare," said Senator Jake Corman - (R) Centre-Perry counties - at a recent Appropriations hearing for the Gaming Control Board. "More people have signed up for Obamacare than are signing up for small games of chance from an industry who begged for this."

You can apparently lead a bar owner to the tap, but you can't make him drink. It seems many are turned off by what they feel is excessive government regulation around the law.

Four agencies, the State Police, the Gaming Control Board, the Liquor Control Board and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue have their hands in the small games law.

"There's onerous government that just puts undue burden on individuals and businesses all the time and this is just another example of that," said Representative Seth Grove - (R) York. Grove pointed a finger at the agencies for over-regulating the process and making it too complex.

But the LCB, which seems to have the lead on the application process, pointed its finger right back, saying it is merely carrying out what lawmakers intended.

"It absolutely is complex," said PLCB Spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman of the application process.

Too complex?

"I wouldn't say that. It's set up based on the legislation that was passed."

So why aren't more taverns and bars signing up for an opportunity many of them asked lawmakers to pass?

Amy Christie, with the Pennsylvania Taverns' Association, blames the complex application process, which is multi-faceted. It costs $2,000 for the initial application and background check. The Gaming Control Board does a national background check with fingerprinting, because anyone with a felony in the last 15 years is ineligible for a small games license. If approved, it will cost another $2,000 to get the actual license.

The state will take 60 percent of the haul off the top, and local municipalities will get an additional five percent. The owners, who are taking all the risk and paying the costs and taxes up front, get to keep the remaining 35 percent.

Many, no doubt, feel it's more trouble than it's worth.

Additionally there's concern that violations against a tavern's gaming license could impact its liquor license. This, we're told, is scaring many of them away, and Senator Corman understands why.

"If they lose that liquor license they've lost their business, they've lost their investment, they may have lost their retirement," Corman said.

Right now it's the state that's losing potential revenue that will soon be desperately needed.

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