HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett’s support for legislation to expand legal gambling to bars in Pennsylvania does not mean that he has abandoned his support for a lottery expansion that would include keno monitors in bars, a spokesman said Friday.
Allowing bars to host keno and other types of gambling called small games of chance in Pennsylvania would give owners a choice of one or both, Corbett press secretary Jay Pagni said.
“Both games could appeal to either the same population or some people may choose one game over the other,” Pagni said. “We are not dropping any plans.”
A bill that could allow several thousand bars in Pennsylvania to profit from small games of chance was approved by the state Senate on Wednesday, but a planned vote fell apart in the House amid objections by Democrats.
Corbett has not brought forward a plan to launch keno, a number-picking game in which players fill out a card every few minutes and watch numbers on a video monitor.
The legislation to allow small games of chance in bars is being touted as a way to provide more than $150 million to a state budget that could be under considerable strain in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014. The Corbett administration, however, also projects that the new gambling would take $25 million from the lottery’s sale of instant games and hurt the lottery’s ability to get more bar owners to carry lottery products.
A House Republican spokesman said Friday that the chamber’s GOP leadership supports the bill and expects a vote after lawmakers return to Harrisburg on Nov. 12.
Still, the gambling that the bill would authorize in an estimated 2,000 bars — pull-tabs, daily drawings and monthly raffles — promises to be more profitable to bar owners than keno, said Amy Christie, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage Association, which lobbies on behalf of bar owners.
“Our members want small games of chance,” Christie said. “We’ve been wanting small games of chance since 1988.”
Bar owners would keep 12.5 percent of wagers on small games of chance, while they would keep 5 percent of keno wagers, a Department of Revenue spokeswoman said.
Pennsylvania last expanded gambling in 2010, allowing table games at slot-machine casinos, as a way to prop up a recession-wracked budget.
Pagni would not say what the Corbett administration intends to do by a Tuesday deadline to drop or extend a bid by the British lottery operator Camelot Global Services to take over management of the Pennsylvania Lottery. Its plans included introducing online access to lottery games and distributing keno outlets to as many as 3,000 bars and restaurants.
Corbett wanted to hire Camelot Global Services to run the lottery on a 20- to 30-year contract, saying its promise of $34 billion in profits over that period was higher and more stable than the lottery’s current public management could deliver. Camelot could charge hundreds of millions of dollars in management fees in the deal.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane, whose office reviews state contracts, rejected the contract as illegal in February. Corbett has since struck a series of agreements with Camelot to keep its bid alive, although his administration has not resubmitted a revised contract to Kane or publicly asked the Legislature to resolve the legal conflicts.