These 2 Bills Would Allow Sports Gambling, Airport Slots in Pa.

Pennsylvania Rep. Nick Kotik has introduced two pieces of legislature: One would legalize sports gambling. The other would allow slot machines in six Pa. airports.

Slot machine with basketball and planes

Original photo by Garry Knight used under a Creative Commons license.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker is in a mood to expand legalized gambling. Not only does he want to make it legal for you to gamble on sports, he wants airports to be allowed to install slot machines in boarding areas.

Those are the two bills pushed by State Rep. Nick Kotik, a Democrat in Allegheny County. Kotik is the Democratic chair of the gambling oversight committee. Yesterday he introduced HB1606, a bill that would legalize sports gambling in the state.

Under federal law, sports betting is illegal in all but four states: Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana. Only Nevada offers betting on individual games. The only option in Delaware is technically a “sports lottery” and offers parlay cards. But New Jersey passed a bill legalizing sports gambling in 2012 and is challenging federal law in court; today the 3rd circuit vacated its previous ruling against the state and the full third circuit will re-hear the case in a few months.

(While New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak says to “expect sports betting in AC and Monmouth Racetrack by the Super Bowl,” he’s getting a little ahead of himself. In its appeal, the state argued the 3rd circuit’s two 2-1 rulings against New Jersey, one in 2013 and one in August, offered opposing justifications. The court could just be planning to clarify its rulings prohibiting sports gambling in New Jersey.)

Kotik’s Pennsylvania bill is an attempt to get a jump start on sports gambling in Pennsylvania if New Jersey is successful in challenging the law. “If we take the next logical step in expanding gaming in this state, sports betting may very well fit the profile,” Kotik said in a release. “The question is: if this is already going on, why not legalize it in such a way that it’s regulated while still profitable? The intent of this legislation is to provide our casinos with an alternative form of entertainment, while also regulating a popular market.”

There’s another gambling bill supported by Kotik that’s in the legislature. HB 1408 would legalize slot machines at six airports in the state, including PHL.

There wouldn’t be actual casinos at the airports; the bill would allow these airports to set up slot machines in secure boarding areas. The idea would be to entice out-of-town travelers to lose some of their money at the airport before departing. There are still issues to work out — revenue generated at airports usually must remain at airports, due to Federal Aviation Administration regulations — and there is a hearing on Monday, October 26th about the bill.

“At the minimum,” Kotik told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in May, “if it generates some revenue to help the airport authority to entice airlines in, it’s a plus.” The paper reported the move was primarily done to help struggling Pittsburgh International Airport, which lost its status as a US Airways hub more than a decade ago.

“This is our chance to stay ahead of the curve,” Kotik said in a statement in June. “Airports have a steady stream of people going in and going out – thousands every day. Real dollars in, real dollars out. Electing to play a slot machine while waiting to board a flight translates back into real help for the state.”

In addition to PHL, Kotik’s bill would legalize slot machines at the state’s other five international airports: Erie, Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley, Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Slot machines are legal in only two airports in the United States, both in Nevada: McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas) and Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

If this sounds like a lot, well, it is. “Pennsylvania Is Throwing Everything But The Kitchen Sink At Gambling Expansion” is how headlines its piece on recent developments. Just think: One day in the future you could lose money betting on the Eagles at the Live! Casino in South Philly, then lose money while waiting for your flight out of town at PHL. What a time to be a gambler.

The text of House Bill 1627, is being revised and was not available. The text of House Bill 1408 is below.

Pennsylvania House Bill 1408

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