Sands fights bar-gambling bill

Las Vegas Sands is launching a million-dollar campaing against the Pennsylvania bill that may allow casino gambling in bars.

US.- The US$1.3 billion sale of Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem was almost a reality when a potential law, that would allow bars to host casino gambling, caused the deal to fail. Now, the casino corporation has decided to embark on a crusade against said legislation with a million-dollar campaign to stop it.

According to Sheldon Adelson’s company, installing video gaming terminals (VGTs) in bars and truck stops would hurt a casino model that produces yearly US$1.4 billion in tax money for the state. Therefore, they’re leading a campaign to keep their slot machine monopoly from the Pennsylvania Tavern Association and, even though officials expect other casino company’s to join, none has until today.

The campaign is being funded with over US$1 million that are being channeled through the recently created lobbying organisation, Pennsylvanians For Responsible Government. It includes radio ads, a website and a 30-secont TV spot.

As quoted by The Morning Call, Michael Barley, spokesman for the lobbying group said: “This proposal would destroy the brick-and-mortar casino industry and risk the nearly $1.4 billion in tax revenues that these establishments generate annually.Worse yet, because VGTs are designed to operate without employees, the 18,000 people casinos collectively employ in Pennsylvania will be put in serious jeopardy.”

However, the bill’s pushers assure that it will prop up mom-and-pop taverns, while pumping hundreds of millions of tax dollars into the state budget.

Representative Mark Mustio is the bill’s main sponsor and questioned Sands’ campaign, labeling it as “misleading”. “They are trying to create a boogieman and I’m not interested in playing that game. If they can spend US$1 million for an ad campaign, maybe we should raise their taxes,” he said.

According to Mustio, the bill’s purpose is to legalise and tax illegal terminals operating in social halls and taverns across the state. He also clarified that the bill can be ammended to exclude nursing homes and delis, one of the main points of criticism in the Sands campaign.

The casino corporation is worried about VGTs and, according to John Cunnane, a Wall Street gaming and leisure analyst for Stifel Investment Services, they should be. The Morning Call quotes Cunnane saying that the bill would give 16,000 establishment with liquor licenses to operate slot machines. Bars, clubs and restaurants would be able to have up to five terminals each, while off-track betting facilities and truck terminales could have up to ten. This would add an estimate 35-40 thousand machines statewide, analysts project.

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