A new addition may come to local taverns

You pays your money and you takes your chances.

The opportunity to walk away a winner could be coming to your favorite watering hole.

One of two small games of chance bills working their way through the Pennsylvania General Assembly would extend the opportunity to obtain gaming licenses to taverns.

The offerings would be limited, allowing taverns to offer pull-tabs, daily drawings and raffles similar to what social clubs can offer now. Prizes are capped as well, with single chances restricted to a $2,000 payout.

Licensing for taverns would cost $2,000 with a $1,000 renewal fee; an additional $1,000 fee to conduct a background investigation would also be required during the license application process. Additionally, gaming revenue would be taxed at a 60 percent rate.

If passed, it’s estimated the measure would generate more than $100 million per year for the state, and more than $200 million in gross profits for businesses.

However, like everything related to gambling, an expansion has risks. In this case, in the form of expanded opportunities for problem gambling.

“We have a big population of folks here that have a gambling addiction and it’s to scratch-offs and pull tabs because that’s what’s available,” Nicole Drozdiel, gambling prevention specialist for Beacon Light Behavioral Health, said. “It’s a population that may not have the resources to go to the casino. Gambling addiction isn’t just a casino gambling issue. With increased opportunity, there is increased problem behavior. It’s just a natural consequence.”

Drozdiel noted Warren’s location makes the population especially vulnerable.

“We have this concentration of opportunities for gambling,” she said, referring to the county’s proximity to a number of casinos. “I think with opening it up, we’re just increasing opportunities exponentially. So that’s what worries me, when we see legislation after legislation expanding opportunities.”

The legislation, House Bill 1098, has passed both the state House and Senate, and is currently awaiting concurrence on Senate amendments in the House.

Gov. Tom Corbett has expressed support for expanding small games of chance.

Drozdiel noted she is not anti-gambling, but does see the aftermath of expansions. In fact, her job exists because of one.

“My position is a result of the state opening up casinos,” she said. “So when they opened up gambling, they knew they were going to have to deal with the social impacts.”

She also said she sees further expansions on the horizon, with opportunities through video console and online gaming.

“I just don’t see an endpoint right now,” Drozdiel said. “Now it’s expanding to taverns. Then you’ve got video gaming. Then there’s the internet. It’s just going to keep exploding.”