We Want Poker!

Last week, the House debated whether to expand Pennsylvania casino licenses to include table games. Some are concerned that the bureaucracy created to regulate the gaming industry in this state is still not up to snuff, as evidenced by the recent perjury charges levied against Mount Airy Casino owner Louis DeNaples earlier this year. Even more argue that permitting blackjack, craps, roulette, and poker in the already existing slot casinos will attract a seedy element like the one that exists in Atlantic City currently. Despite these criticisms, the Clarke Report still believes the table games decision to be a slam dunk.

It is undisputed that the slot casinos have made a boatload of cash and the government has seen a windfall in revenue from it. In 2007, 11 Pa. casinos brought in nearly $1.6 billion in revenue and the state government collected upwards of $535 million in taxes. Keep in mind that when debating whether to open these slot facilities, investors estimated that all 14 casinos running simultaneously would bring in $1.5 billion. So, they are already ahead of the curve and seem to be getting stronger. In the first quarter of 2008, the newly opened Hollywood Casino in Grantville generated $39.4 million in profit and has petitioned the Gaming Commission for more machines. For those of you who are horrible at math, like me, that’s $226 in revenue per machine everyday.

Table games will just bring in more. In Atlantic City, 30% of a casinos revenue comes from table games. With projections for the next year’s profit being over $2 billion statewide, adding table games could generate more than $600 million dollars in profit for the casinos, $204 million of which would be funneled to the state for taxes. In all a little more than a year, the state government could see an increase of nearly $1 billion dollars in taxes. Think of what that money could do.

We have roads, bridges, and dams that are in desperate need of repair. We have homeowners going into foreclosure because they can’t afford to pay their property taxes. We have poor and middle class Pennsylvanians spending nearly a quarter of their paycheck at the gas pump. $1 billion dollars could bring much needed relief in these areas. The biggest benefit, though, is job creation. When you have table games, you need dealers, pit bosses, security, and more. One casino alone could generate more than 300 new jobs. Multiply that out over 14 casinos and you put nearly 5000 unemployed Pennsylvanians back to work.

When you objectively weigh all of the factors involved, the Clarke Report believes its a no-brainer. Pennsylvania is hurting badly. The slot casinos have eased that pain already. With table games, the potential to completely eliminate the hurt is there for the taking. I say, shuffle up and deal.



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