Few Restaurants Betting on Small Games of Chance

May 1, 2014
Aaron K. Zeamer

Previously, I wrote about the change in the law that permitted restaurants, hotels and other places with a liquor license to now apply for a small games of chance license which would permit them to operate certain tavern games as part of their business.  These games were previously reserved for clubs and other private licensees and were not available to restaurants and hotels.  When the law was passed, the governor’s office estimated that the taxes and fees generated from the expansion of these licenses would generate as much as a $102 million dollars for the State of Pennsylvania.  However, a number of recent articles, such as this one from Lancaster Newspapers and this one from PennLive/Patriot News have highlighted the reluctance of many bar and restaurant owners in applying for these licenses.

The reluctance seems to stem from a great deal of uncertainty and also some confusion and complication with regard to the application process.  The first small games of chance license was highly publicized and, according to reports from the bar owner, appears to have attracted some business.  It seems though it is too early to tell as to whether or not these licenses are worth it to bar and restaurant owners given the hefty taxes and application requirements.  It remains to be seen whether the Department of Revenue, Liquor Control Board, and Gaming Control Board, all of which are involved in a small games of chance license, will relax some of their requirements or taxes when it comes to these games or these licenses in order to attract more applications.  If they do not, there may need to be some adjustments to the expectations for the taxes and fees generated by these licenses.  It is also possible that a few establishments will serve as guinea pigs and, if they continue to report success in increased revenue from these games, it could open the flood gates for other bars and restaurants that have not been so quick to bet on the value of a small games of chance license.

Aaron Zeamer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Business Law and Liquor License matters.