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Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Pennsylvania table game vote could come this week

5 January 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Pennsylvania's governor is giving state lawmakers until Friday to reach an agreement on legalizing table games, and he's holding the jobs of 1,100 state workers as hostage.

Gov. Ed Rendell said he needs the tax revenues generated by Pennsylvania casinos to balance the state budget. State media outlets have quoted Rendell as saying he needs to have a bill on his desk by this week or he will be forced to lay off up to 1,100 state workers.

The Pennsylvania legislature is back in session today, following a two-week holiday break. The passage of Senate Bill 711, which would legalize table games, is high on the agenda.

The state's two statehouses disagree on adding an additional resort gaming license.

Spokesmen for the majority parties in both houses were optimistic that a bill could get done this week.

The bill would allow slot machine-only casinos, such as Las Vegas Sands Corp.'s casino in Bethlehem, to add table games with the revenues taxed initially at 14 percent. In 2011, the tax rate would decrease to 12 percent.

The up-front license fees in the bill could range between $7.5 million and $16.5 million to install table games.

Sands executives have said the casino would add table games immediately after the governor signs the bill into law.

Susquehanna Financial Group gaming analyst Robert LaFleur said table games give the Sands Bethlehem an advantage over Atlantic City casinos because of its proximity to New York City.

"(The) property is about an hour closer than Atlantic City to the North New Jersey-New York City area, so the addition of table games could draw additional visitation from this area," LaFleur told investors.