York County bars would be among those statewide that could profit from offering customers limited gambling, but area legislators have taken different positions on the bill to legalize small games of chance for taverns.
The legislation, House Bill 1098, barely passed the House of Representatives Wednesday and is heading back to the Senate. An early version of the bill already passed the Senate last month, but another vote is needed because the bill was changed in the House.
Two senators who serve portions of York - Pat Vance, R-York and Cumberland counties, and Lloyd Smucker, R- York and Lancaster counties - voted against the bill when it passed the Senate the first time.
Vance said she doubts she'll be any more enthusiastic about the legislation the second time around, even though the measure would raise money for the state.
"I'm not sure I believe we can resolve all of our problems by gaming," she said. "I tend to look at the downside of all of the problems that causes."
The people who game don't always have the money, she said.
"They're looking for a golden ring that they'll never find. It's an elusive thing they're seeking."
They end up losing money for their families and being unable to, for example, pay their mortgages, she said.
Nonprofits such as VFW clubs and Legion posts have exclusive rights to gaming under the current law, which says they must donate a percentage of their profits to charity.
Vance and others have voiced concerns about hurting the nonprofit clubs by letting other bars compete for gambling customers.
Support: But at least two other senators who serve portions of York supported the gaming expansion in the first Senate vote and said they're likely to support the bill again.
Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin and York counties, said changes made in the House addressed some of the concerns of nonprofits that offer games.
He said bars that apply for the licenses to offer small games of chance will "in theory" be competing with the nonprofits, but he thinks the bars and the nonprofit clubs serve different audiences.
Sen. Rich Alloway, R-Adams/Franklin/York counties, said people seem to focus on the bill's generating money for the state, but they lose track of the money it would means for business owners - tavern owners - who pay taxes and hire employees.
He said he also applauds the House for changing the bill to include a measure to give host municipalities 5 percent of the proceeds from games at bars within their boundaries.
"They can use it however they wish, but obviously police and fire budgets are a challenge for municipalities all the time," he said.
Gov. Tom Corbett has said he supports the gaming expansion, and his office has estimated the gross profits from the gambling will be $260 million a year - 60 percent, or about $150 million a year, would go to the state; 5 percent, or about $13 million a year, would go to a bar's home municipality; and the rest would go to the bar owners.
The games: Under the bill, about 4,500 bars and taverns could seek licenses to conduct pull-tab games, daily drawings and tavern raffles. Individual prize limits would be $2,000 for a single game and $35,000 over seven days, while raffles would be limited to one a month.
Tom Sibol, who owns the White Rose Bar & Grill at 48 N. Beaver St., said he has been following the bill and supports the concept of gaming in bars.
While he's in favor of the legislation, he said he'll have to evaluate the legislation - if it passes - before deciding whether to apply for a license.
"I think our customers would be interested, possibly," he said. "If we were to do it ...we would need to make sure it wouldn't take away from the good customer service we give now. How much time is it going to take away from our staff?"
- The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.