University Park Airport was added to a bill passed on Tuesday by the Pennsylvania state house that would allow certain restricted video gambling at specified airports in the Commonwealth.
But if the bill does become law, it doesn't seem likely video gambling terminals will be coming to the airport in Benner Township.
House Bill 271 passed by a 142-56 vote. A day earlier, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment by Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Washington Township, to include University Park Airport and Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Westmoreland County that could apply to have video gaming areas.
The bill, which now moves to the state senate, would allow the authorized airports to apply to host areas with tablet-like devices for approved gambling games.
Erie, Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airports were the original airports included in the bill.
“The state is looking at ways to fill a multi-billion dollar budget hole,’” Petrarca said in a news release. “Expanding gaming through the addition of video terminals at the state’s largest airports is an ideal way to offer entertainment while receiving gaming revenues from those traveling through Pennsylvania.
“Expanded gaming opportunities are often mentioned as a way to deal with the state budget shortfall, and I see this as a way to increase revenue without burdening our local residents with additional taxes while helping our local airport.”
The bill would allow airport authorities to apply for an airport gaming certificate to create a gaming zone for ticketed travelers age 21 and older who have already passed through security checkpoints.
According to the bill, licensees would pay a one-time, nonrefundable fee of $1 million upon being issued a certificate. Airport gaming certificate holders would pay the state 14 percent of gross daily revenues from the games.
But just because University Park Airport is included doesn't mean gambling will be coming to the airport if the bill becomes law.
Centre County Airport Authority owns and operates the commercial airline terminal and would be responsible for moving forward if the legislation passes.
Speaking for himself and not on behalf of the authority board, authority executive director Jim Meyer said it was appropriate that University Park be included in the list if all other major airports in the state are. But he did not think it would be something he would advocate adding to the airport.
"This is a much bigger deal for the big three, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg, than it is for us," Meyer said. "We certainly do not need any of the limited revenue that would come from the video gaming machines. It is nothing I would ever push for. I truly do not see our board allowing gaming at University Park Airport. As the [news release] stated, the state is looking for ways to offset our budget deficit; and this is a very sad way of trying to do just that."
Meyer said he was not aware of the details of the bill until reading Petrarca's news release.
Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, whose 76th District includes Benner Township where the airport is located, said he was surprised to see the amendment that added University Park Airport be adopted by the appropriations committee on Monday.
"I was surprised to see that this amendment was adopted, so when the bill came to the floor for a vote on April 4, I chose not to support it without first talking to James Meyer...," Hanna said. "I plan to get in touch with Mr. Meyer as this proposal works its way through the legislative process."
The three other state representatives whose districts include parts of Centre County -- Kerry Benninghoff (R-Bellefonte), Scott Conklin (D-Rush Township) and Rich Irvin (R-Spruce Creek Township) each voted in favor of the bill.
University Park Airport director Bryan Rodgers noted that while Penn State owns the airport, terminal functions are owned and operated by the airport authority, which would make the decision, not the university.
Original article can be found here: http://www.statecollege.com