Legal

Is Pennsylvania Going To Change How It Oversees ‘Small Games Of Chance’?


Pennsylvania is seriously considering legislation that would move the oversight of small games of chance like raffles and pull tabs to the state gaming commission, a move that would not be popular with everyone.

The games of chance bill, and what it does

The legislation, sponsored by House Gaming Oversight Committee Chairman John Payne, would put the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in charge of these small games of chance (SGOC). (As defined in Pennsylvania, SGOC must cost less than $10 to a player, and cannot involve any sort of mechanical device.)

The bill — HB 1891 — was reported out of committee favorably and now sits on the House floor, after a hearing was held on the legislation in March. It could see a vote as soon as this week.

Right now, a 1988 law governs SGOC, with several different bodies sharing oversight and tax collection duties, including the state Revenue Department, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, county treasurers and the PGCB. The bill would move all of the oversight to the PGCB except for administration of the tavern games tax.

Non-profit organizations and taverns can be licensed to offer SGOC under PA law now, and that would continue to be the case under the new bill.

The bill would also allow the PGCB to authorize new games of chance, something that falls to the legislature, currently.

Opposition on the SGOC bill

While Payne’s bill is making progress, it’s unpopular with some groups — the PGCB included — according to a story from Times-Shamrock Communications newspapers.

Payne is trying to streamline the regulatory process, something that not everyone agrees with. More from the report:

A statewide organization representing fraternal and social clubs wants to keep the small-games gambling for charitable fund-raising purposes separate from commercial for-profit gambling.

“We believe that putting (small games) under the gaming board could eventually lead to a complete takeover of the charitable gaming infrastructure that our local communities depend on by the board and the casino industry,” said Ted Mowatt, executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Fraternal and Social Organizations.

Also according to the report, PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole his organization is not a good fit for oversight duties because of the structure or the group’s board. He also noted that casinos — who are not involved in SGOC — would be footing the bill for the oversight provided, as Pennsylvania casino revenues fund the PGCB.

What’s next for the bill?

So far, the opposition has not scuttled progress on the bill. It passed unanimously out of committee with 23 yeas and four members who did not vote.

That would seem to indicate that it should fly through the House. Whether the Senate is interested in passing the legislation could be another story, as this is a House-led effort. Whether lobbying efforts and the PGCB’s concerns could slow the bill or lead it to being amended are open questions.


Dustin Gouker has written extensively about sports and poker for more than 15 years, and has recently added Daily Fantasy Sports to his roster of topics. Also an avid poker player, Dustin has written for such publications as the D.C. Examiner and The Washington Post.