Learn the ‘ABCs of VGTs’: Video gaming terminals pushed for Pa. budget

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In an effort to help make up a $3 billion projected budget deficit, a number of Pennsylvania lawmakers are pushing for an increased role in regulated gambling. Among the proposals is to allow video gaming terminals, or VGTs, outside of casinos.

It can all be very confusing. In the hopes of simplifying the proposed gaming expansion, here are the ABCs of VGTs.

A - Airports
B - Bars
C - Clubs

Under the proposal, video gaming terminals would be allowed in airports, bars, restaurants, taverns, private clubs, etc.

D - Deficit

Advocates hope the increase in statewide regulated gambling would help cut into the projected $3 billion deficit.

E - Expanded
F - Friday
G - Gaming

Advocates hope the expanded gaming legislation is part of the final state budget appropriation, which is due by midnight Friday.

H - House of Representatives

The House of Representatives narrowly passed the expanded gaming bill in June, by a vote of 102 to 89.

"It's un-regulated and un-taxed," said Rep. Mark Mustio (R-Allegheny) about the gaming industry. "Clearly everyone knows we have a significant deficit. This is a way to generate a large amount of revenue."

I - Internet

The House's proposal includes adding internet-based casino games to the mix, which are online games accessed by a casino's website.

J - Jake Corman, Senate Majority Leader

Corman is in charge of bringing House Bill 271 to a vote. He is not in favor of the expansive amount of video gambling proposed by the House. Right now, he says, there is not enough support to pass the bill as is.

"We're trying to get to that point where we can make everyone happy and get that balance where we can get to 26 votes," said Corman spokesperson Jennifer Kocher. "To date we haven't been able to do that."

K - Kill the bill

Corman could never hold a vote on the gaming bill, since the Senate already sent back a version of HB271 with amendments. The House voted the bill back with all the video gaming language reinserted.

L - Limited expansion

Corman, and other Senators, want to avoid an increase of "sin taxes" like gaming, as much as possible. They are, however, in favor of limited expansion, including online lottery sales.

M - Money
N - New revenue

House leaders project a full gaming expansion could net $350 million annual in new revenue.

O - Ortitay, Rep. Jason

State Representative Jason Ortitay is the bill's prime sponsor. He declined FOX43's interview request.

P - Pennsylvanians for Responsible Government

The lobbying group is airing commercials statewide, urging legislators to vote no against video gaming terminals. They cite lottery money taken away from senior citizens and jobs lost in casinos as a result of gambling expansion as their reason.

"The casino industry brings in billions of dollars to the commonwealth," said spokesman Mike Barley. "We should be careful not to kill the golden goose with what we already have."

Q - Quiet

State budget negotiations between caucus leaders are taking place, but according to Kocher, no one has met yet with Governor Tom Wolf in recent weeks regarding a final budget plan. The House passed their version of the budget earlier this session. Kocher says the Senate's final version will be closer to the House's $31.5 billion spend number than the governor's $32.3 billion.

R - Rich Alloway, State Senator

Franklin County Republican Sen. Rich Alloway is one of the Senate Republicans pushing for VGTs.

"Everyone is all over the board and we're trying to find that sweet spot. That's what legislation is all about, trying to find the place where you have those 26 votes," Alloway said.

S - Small businesses

Alloway says VGTs will help small business owners make extra money in their establishments.

T - Taxes

An increase in gaming, advocates say, is a way to increase projected revenue without adding broad based taxes, such as sales or personal income.

U - Unnecessary

Opponents of the increased gambling proposal argue it will cause unnecessary emotional harm, such as a greater likelihood of addiction or other social costs.

V - Veto
W - Wolf, Governor Tom

If a version of gaming expansion reaches Governor Tom Wolf's desk which includes video gaming terminals, the governor could always veto it.

X - eXplain
Z - Zilch

If no agreement on a state budget is made by midnight Friday, Democrats and Republicans will be forced to explain why they are in a budget impasse for the third straight year. At that point, all the revenue proposals a worth zilch, nothing.

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