Pa. lowers fee to boost taverns’ interest in gambling

    Pennsylvania is cutting back on charging a fee to bars and taverns that offer small-time gambling in an attempt to boost interest in the gaming licenses and bring in more money to state coffers.

    The $2,000 license will now cost $500 to bars, restaurants, and taverns looking to allow small-time gambling on their premises. State lawmakers authorized the change recently.

    “We were happy to lower the licensing fee to encourage more tavern owners to apply for the tavern gaming license,” said Skip Brion, chairman of the Liquor Control Board, which grants the licenses.

    The lower fee will not apply retroactively to the 21 licenses issued since January.

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    “We cannot do anything because those funds were put in the general fund of the commonwealth,” said Brion. “They were not put in LCB’s bank accounts. So we don’t have the ability to give that back to them.”

    The licenses for “small games of chance” in bars and restaurants became available this year, and the games were expected to bring in more than $150 million annually for the commonwealth.

    Lawmakers expected to see about 2,000 licenses issued. But few taverns applied. Tavern owners and state lawmakers criticized the application process for being expensive and cumbersome.

    A separate $2,000 fee to apply for the gambling licenses still stands.

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