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Pennsylvania

As gambling grows in Pennsylvania, what's legal now and what's next?

Jacob Tierney
| Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, 12:06 p.m.
Cheryl Graves, of Peters Township celebrates a win as she tries out 'The Behemoth,' slot machine at The Meadows Casino in Washington County Friday, May 6, 2016. 'The Behemoth' is the world's largest retail production slot machine measuring nearly 10 feet tall and 4.5 feet wide. The three consoles at The Meadows have a 84' ultra high-definition LCD monitor, upgraded graphics and surround sound.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Cheryl Graves, of Peters Township celebrates a win as she tries out 'The Behemoth,' slot machine at The Meadows Casino in Washington County Friday, May 6, 2016. 'The Behemoth' is the world's largest retail production slot machine measuring nearly 10 feet tall and 4.5 feet wide. The three consoles at The Meadows have a 84' ultra high-definition LCD monitor, upgraded graphics and surround sound.
An employee reaches for chips at a roulette table at Rivers Casino.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune Review
An employee reaches for chips at a roulette table at Rivers Casino.
Greg Criner of Tarentum, scratches his lottery ticket at the Marathon gas station in Tarentum, on Monday May 18, 2015.
Dan Speicher | For Trib Total Media
Greg Criner of Tarentum, scratches his lottery ticket at the Marathon gas station in Tarentum, on Monday May 18, 2015.
The opening rounds of the Pittsburgh Poker Open poker tournament get underway at the Rivers Casino Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The opening rounds of the Pittsburgh Poker Open poker tournament get underway at the Rivers Casino Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013.
Dave Palone (far right), a Waynesburg native, races Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, at The Meadows in Washington. The Harness Racing Hall of Fame inductee broke the world record for career wins with his 16,754th on Friday.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Dave Palone (far right), a Waynesburg native, races Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, at The Meadows in Washington. The Harness Racing Hall of Fame inductee broke the world record for career wins with his 16,754th on Friday.
Cards lay on a table during a game of blackjack at the Rivers Casino.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Cards lay on a table during a game of blackjack at the Rivers Casino.
A driver warms up his horse before races Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, at The Meadows in North Strabane, Washington County.
Jason Cato | Trib Total Media
A driver warms up his horse before races Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, at The Meadows in North Strabane, Washington County.

The big business of gambling is about to get bigger in Pennsylvania.

Casino gambling brings in about $1.4 billion a year in tax revenue, the most in the country, and the casino industry here is second only to Nevada, according to the Associated Press.

The Pennsylvania Lottery brings in an additional $1 billion a year.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation this week that would allow the industry to expand with new locations and through online gambling, a move expected to raise $200 million a year in new tax revenue.

Wolf last week also established a new lottery initiative that would bring "virtual sports," operated by the Pennsylvania Lottery, to bars and taverns, which could raise an additional $75 million annually for the state.

There are plenty of ways to wager, and soon there will be more. Here's a breakdown of the ways Pennsylvanians can legally try their luck:

Now:

• Betting on horse races was legalized in 1959, making it the oldest form of legal gambling in the state. Pennsylvania has six racetracks, all of which double as casinos. There also are harness races at 16 county fairs.

The storied pastime, however, isn't much of a moneymaker for the state. In 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available, taxes on race wagers netted just over $10 million. The state spent about $52 million on its racing fund in the 2015-2016 budget.

• Slot machines, including video slots, have been legal in Pennsylvania since 2004. They're available at each of the state's 12 casinos. Slot machine betting brought in more than $1.2 billion in state and local taxes in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

• Table games include traditional casino games like blackjack, poker and roulette, as well as electronic gambling games. They've been legal since 2010 and are available at casinos. Table games brought in $138 million in state and local taxes in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

• The Pennsylvania Lottery, established in 1972, offers dozens of draw games, scratch-off tickets and "Fast Play" games. In the 2016-17 fiscal year, the lottery's net revenue was more than $1 billion.

Coming soon:

• Online — With Wolf's signature, Pennsylvania has become the fourth state to allow online gambling. It joins Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. Under the new law, the state's existing physical casinos will be allowed to offer games online, letting players gamble from home. The legislation also allows lottery tickets to be sold online.

• Airports — Casinos will be allowed to set up interactive gambling parlors in eight airports, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Pennsylvania will become the second state in the country to allow gambling in airports.

• Truck stops will be allow to operate up to five video gaming terminals.

• Bars and tavern owners have long asked for the legalization of video gaming terminals in their establishments. These were included in an earlier version of this year's gambling legislation but were removed before making it to Wolf's desk. However, the governor announced a new program that would be allowed in bars: "virtual sports," randomized drawings displayed on a screen. Games could be held as often as every five or 10 minutes.

• More casinos — The new law allows 10 of the state's 12 casinos to apply for smaller satellite locations. Bidding for a license would start at $7.5 million, with table games costing an extra $2.5 million. These new locations could hold a maximum of 750 slot machines and 30 table games.

Not yet:

• Sports betting — A federal law makes it illegal to bet on sports, but if that changes Pennsylvania is ready. The new legislation would allow casinos to buy a $10 million license to

offer sports betting in the casino or online, should it ever become legal at the federal level.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.

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