Pennsylvania has one of the most successful casino industries in the nation; we should protect it
On behalf of our 2,400 employes at Parx Shippensburg and Parx Bensalem, I would like to commend Pennlive.com for your recent in-depth report regarding the critical role that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) testing lab plays in monitoring our industry.
As your report noted, the professionals at the lab have many responsibilities, from testing every game and piece of equipment to ensure fair play, to making sure that every casino game is connected to the state’s central computer system. This central computer tracks the revenue from the 27,000 games across every casino in the state.
By any standard, Pennsylvania has one of the most successful casino industries in the nation. The legislative and regulatory framework are thorough and rigorous. The industry has emerged as an economic powerhouse for Pennsylvania that few states can match.
The industry employs 15,000 people directly and supports 33,000 total jobs. The state’s casinos contribute more than $110 million in Local Share revenues and invest $500 million with PA businesses annually.
Last year, Pennsylvania’s casinos generated $2.3 billion in gaming tax revenues, more than any other state. New Jersey generated $526 million in tax revenues in 2022.
Our casino in Shippensburg has created 150 jobs and will provide $100,000 annually to Shippensburg for the next ten years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional property tax revenue to the township, county and school district.
We paid $8 million for the license and invested another $70 million to remake an empty store front into a brand new casino. We hired local businesses for the renovations and continue to work with local suppliers and other vendors.
The casino will have an estimated economic impact of $43 million a year.
This impact is not a fluke – it is by design. For 20 years, Pennsylvania lawmakers and successive gubernatorial administrations have insisted that gaming generate meaningful tax revenues, create good-paying direct and indirect jobs in host communities, and make lasting investments in the state.
But these jobs, tax dollars and investments are at risk because of the explosion of untaxed, unregulated and uncontrolled skill games across the commonwealth.
Despite the fact that the Pennsylvania State Police, the Office of Attorney General and the PGCB all maintain that these machines are illegal, they are ubiquitous in gas stations, pizza parlors, corner stores, laundromats, and countless other locations.
There are at least three times as many illegal skill game machines in operation right now than there are slot machines in legal casinos.
Our Shippensburg casino is competing with a skill game parlor in Hampden Township – 30 miles from our property - and a second skill game parlor in Harrisburg. In the last 10 days or so, another skill game parlor has opened up in Waynesboro, which is advertised as a “slots parlor.”
To be clear: These skill games are not licensed, regulated, or supervised by any agency. They are not connected to a central computer. They are not tested. There are no background checks, which every employee in a casino must undergo.
There are no measures in place to prevent children from gambling or to help curb compulsive or problem gaming. Skill games can be a magnet for crime, according to Attorney General Michelle A. Henry, among other officials.
These machines are having a direct impact on the revenues generated by legal slot machines and that, in turn, is a direct hit on the state, which collects 54 % percent on the gross revenues collected from slot machines. The Commonwealth is our majority partner in our slot machine business.
We invest, build, and hire thousands of people. Skill game operators plug a machine into the wall.
It is time for lawmakers to put an end to the continued proliferation of these machines by tightening up state law. Absent meaningful action in Harrisburg, jobs, tax revenues, and significant, continued investments in this state will be at risk.
I would urge Pennlive.com to continue its reporting on the gaming industry and to pay special attention to the impact these machines are having in Pennsylvania.
Eric Hausler is the is Chief Executive Officer at Greenwood Racing Inc., which owns and operates Parx Casino Bucks County and Parx Casino Shippensburg.