Local tavern owners seek answers as new gaming law adds revenue source

Several area bar owners said they want to learn more about the possibility of offering raffles, daily drawings and pull-tab games in their taverns under a new state law.

“I would like to as long as the fees do not outweigh the possible returns. It is an opportunity the state is giving us to make some extra money, so why not,” said Sean Kubat, owner of Our Place Pizza and Pub, Colver.

Kubat was one of nearly 300 liquor licensees attending an informational session on Thursday in Altoona on the state’s new Tavern Gaming License. The session was conducted by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Gaming Control Board, Department of Revenue and State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.

“Each of the four agencies has a unique role in tavern gaming. The process is very different than applying for a liquor license,” said Jerry W. Waters Sr., director of the PLCB’s office of regulatory affairs.

Under the new law, those who want to apply for a gaming license must hold a valid hotel liquor license, restaurant liquor license, privately owned public golf course liquor license or brewery pub license. They can apply for the gaming licenses starting Monday. The new license grants owners the authority to offer tavern raffles for a charitable or public purpose, pull-tab games and daily drawings.

“I am thinking about it for increased revenue. It will help us on a day-to-day basis. I hope it will generate revenue to hire a little more help,” said Tracy Miller, owner of The Hour Glass, Brookville.

There is a lot of information to sort through, said Patrick Wise, owner of Trianon Bar & Grille, Juniata.

“We will think about it. I think in the long run it will be a good thing. We need to go through the numbers and see what it is,” Wise said.

Obtaining a tavern gaming license won’t be cheap; it will cost at least $4,000.

“There is an upfront fee of $2,000, which is unrefundable, and if you are approved, another $2,000 fee,” Robert McAteer, PLCB deputy chief counsel told those in attendance. The annual renewal fee is $1,000.

Under the new state law, tavern owners would keep 35 percent of the gaming profits, while 60 percent will go to the state and 5 percent to the host municipality. A legislative financial analysis estimated the measure could raise $156 million for the state treasury in the first year.

While the PLCB will process the applications and ultimately approve them, other state agencies will have a role in tavern gaming as well. For instance, the Gaming Control Board will conduct a thorough background check on applicants and provide that information to the PLCB.

“The need for a tavern gaming applicant to be forthright and complete in providing information cannot be understated,” said Paul Mauro, director of the PGCB’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement.

“The best thing you can do is fill out the application form completely and honestly. Our job is to do your background investigation, and the report goes to the LCB. We are not your enemy. We don’t want to see anyone fail,” Mauro said.

The State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement will enforce the licensing and gaming requirements in addition to maintaining its current responsibilities enforcing the Liquor Code.

“Our goal is what we do, and that is compliance. As we move forward, we are all in this together,” said Lt. James A. Jones Jr., of the BLCE.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.