Sunday, June 14, 2009

Possible Introduction Of Table Games Could Save Pocono Downs

By Ken Davison
Feather News

Pennsylvania lawmakers may consider adding table games to the slot parlors as a way to generate more revenue for the state.

The addition of table games, such as blackjack and poker, could eventually mean that the Tribe's Pocono Downs could someday become a profitable venture.

The head of Pennsylvania's Gaming Control Board, Gregory Fajt, says gives any table games legislation a 50 percent chance of passing while a spokesman for Governor Ed Rendell says that adding table games is premature.

House Majority Whip Bill DeWeese is looking for co-sponsors of a bill that would add table games to the slot parlors. A state senator, Tommy Tomlinson, also plans to introduce legislation for table games in the next few weeks. Such a move could add another $300 million in revenues to the state.

Eight slot parlors have been opened in Pennsylvania since that form of gambling was legalized in 2004. A ninth slot parlor is expected to open in Pittsburgh in August and two more in Philadelphia next year. The onlslaught of slot parlors in Pennsylvania has resulted in double-digit revenue declines in neighboring Atlantic City.

Fajt, who was Gov. Ed Rendell's chief of staff before he became the chairman of the state's gaming board, said, "It’s happening the way we thought it would happen. We are taking money away from border states. People aren’t going to Atlantic City — they’re staying in Pennsylvania."

Largely because of interest expenses on the heavy debt load as a result of money borrowed to open and expand its facility, the Mohegan's Pocono Downs slot parlor has accumulated losses since it was opened in 2006.