|By Jerry Lynott, The Times Leader,
Wilkes-Barre, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jul. 21, 2009--PLAINS TWP. -- While lawmakers consider the addition of table games as a source of revenue for the state, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is preparing for the day when gamblers can play poker, blackjack, roulette and craps in its casino.
Legislation pending in Harrisburg would permit the 14 state-licensed casinos to expand beyond slot machines.
In anticipation of its possible passage, Bobby Soper, president and chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, said the casino is preparing to make the games available "as soon as reasonably feasible."
The casino has begun an implementation plan that includes procuring equipment, a hiring and training plan, and layout and location of the games, he said in an e-mail Monday.
"We believe we could be fully operational within six months after any legislation is passed," Soper said.
The table games would fit onto the existing casino floor, he said.
State Rep. William DeWeese introduced House Bill 21 last week, saying it would create jobs and provide $300 million in revenue for the state during its first year. The bill collected 19 co-sponsors and was referred to the House Gaming Oversight Committee.
"There's no practical difference between placing $20 in a slot machine versus putting it on a poker or blackjack table, so I see no valid reason why we shouldn't allow our successful slots casinos to add these options" said the Greene County Democratic House member in a prepared statement.
The addition of the games is necessary to "stay competitive" with neighboring states and keep gambling dollars within Pennsylvania, DeWeese said.
Under the terms of the legislation, licensees would pay a $10 million fee to provide the games and an annual renewal fee of $500,000. The state would impose an 18 percent daily tax on the casinos' winnings for property tax relief. Another 2 percent would go toward local share assessments for host municipality and county projects. Another 1 percent would pay for agricultural and to support the harness racing industry.
A study funded by Mohegan Sun and two other casinos and conducted by The Innovation Group, said the state could receive an additional $165 million in revenues if the tax rate was 12 percent.
The tax rate will impact Mohegan Sun's plans, Soper added.
"Ultimately the number of games we introduce and the number of additional employees we would hire, would in part, be a function of the tax rate that was imposed," he said.
The casinos already pay a 55 percent tax of the gross slot terminal revenue to the state.
Overall, the state collected $964.7 million in taxes from the eight operating casinos in the last fiscal year, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The collection marked a nearly 25 percent increase from the previous year's total of $772.6 million.
For the fiscal year that ended June 30, Mohegan Sun reported gross terminal revenues of $216 million, a 26 percent increase from the previous year's total of $170.6 million.
At the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., slots accounted for a larger share of revenues than table games. For the second quarter that ended March 31, gross slot revenues totaled $244 million compared to $74.2 million for table games.
The quarterly results were down from the same period in 2008. Slots dropped by 3.6 percent and table games by 27.5 percent, according to the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which operates and regulates the Indian tribe's gambling activities.
Jerry Lynott, a Times Leader staff writer, can be contacted at 570 829-7237.
To see more of The Times Leader, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.timesleader.com.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
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