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Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Pa. Looks to Add Poker

BY TOM SOMACH

A state legislator in Pennsylvania is scheduled to introduce a bill this week to legalize poker and other table games in the state’s new casinos.

The state opened its first casinos last last year, but they only were allowed to have slot machines, which included video poker machines.

Recently, state law was amended so the casinos could also feature so-called electronic table games, which are video versions of poker, blackjack and other casino games, and feature electronic cards and dealers.

Now, state legislators want to change the law again and finally allow the real deal–actual poker and blackjack, as well as roulette, craps and baccarat.

The reason?

Money, of course!

States on both sides of Pennsyvlania–West Virginia and New Jersey–already offer real casino table games, so Keystone State residents go out of state for that kind of action.

That’s millions of dollars a year of Pennsylvania money leaving the state for other states’ poker rooms and craps tables, and Pennsylvania lawmakers don’t like it.

They want that money kept in-state.

And now they’ve got a plan to do it.

A spokesman for Pennsylvania State House majority leader Bill DeWeese said last week the lawmaker would introduce legislation this week to legalize table games such as poker, blackjack, craps, roulette and baccarat in the state’s casinos.

Fourteen casinos in all are scheduled to be opened in the state; eight so far have opened.

The inevitable legalization of table games in Pennsylvania will be another major blow to the casinos in Atlantic City.

The Atlantic City casinos recently reported, for the first time in the 30-year history of legal gambling there, that their profits are down.

Industry analysts attribute the drop-off directly to the opening of casinos in nearby Pennsylvania, whose residents no longer had to travel to New Jersey to gamble.

If Atlantic City casino profits are already down substantially because of Pennsylvania casinos that offer only slot machines and electronic versions of table games, just think what is going to happen to the A.C. profits when Pennsylvania has the real thing–real live table games.

How bad could it be for the Garden State?

Before Pennsylvania had any casinos of its own, it was estimated that about half of all gamblers in Atlantic City at any time were from Pennsylvania, with the majority coming from the Philadelphia area.

A quick walk through any Atlantic City casino parking garage easily verified that–half the cars had Pennsylvania license plates.

So it’s not hard to imagine that once the Keystone State has full-service casinos on par with those in Atlantic City, there will no longer be any reason for Keystone State residents to visit A.C., unless they’ve got a hankering for a filthy boardwalk or a polluted beach.

Yes, Atlantic City is likely to lose half its gambling revenues very soon.

First the city loses the annual Miss America pageant, and now, it’s likely some of its casinos will have to close, from lack of business.

What’s next, getting rid of the pool-diving horse on the Steel Pier?

(E-mail Tom Somach at [email protected])

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