Pa. liquor board to take gaming license applications
Bartender Michele Hilpert fixes a mixed drink for Brian Joseph of Washington at Hungry Jose’s in Washington. Taverns are now allowed to have small games of chance, including raffles, pull-tabs, and daily and weekly drawings.
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The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is preparing to accept applications later this month for tavern gaming licenses, but some business owners have lingering questions about this brand-new option.
A series of informational seminars on the gaming licenses will be held across the state, sponsored by the Liquor Control and Gaming Control boards, Department of Revenue and State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.
The tavern gaming license was established after legislation was passed last year to ease regulations on small games of chance for local nonprofits, increase jackpots and allow more fundraising games. The license would allow establishments with a retail liquor license to offer tavern raffles for a charitable or public purpose, as well as pull-tab games and daily drawings.
Joseph E. Brion, chairman of the state Liquor Control Board, said the purpose of the seminars is to answer any questions prospective licensees may have before Jan. 27, when the application period open.
“The goal of these sessions is to provide our liquor licensees with important information about the application and what’s expected before it becomes available to facilitate a smooth application process,” Brion said in a news release Thursday. “We anticipate there will be numerous questions, so we encourage our licensees to attend the meetings to begin that dialogue.”
No informational sessions will be held in Washington or Greene counties. The nearest seminar is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel at 500 Mansfield Ave. in Pittsburgh.
Stacy Kriedeman, director of external affairs for the Liquor Control Board, said only a limited number of sessions could be scheduled because the deadline to begin applications is quickly approaching.
“It was important for us to get the information out before the license became available so we could help our licensees through the process so they’re ready to go,” Kriedeman said Thursday.
Joe Pintola, former president of Washington-Greene-Fayette Licensed Beverage Owners, said he plans to attend the Pittsburgh session. Pintola, who owns Hungry Jose’s in Washington, said he receives about six or seven phone calls a week from tavern owners who have questions about the gaming license.
“Everyone wants to get a little piece of the action if they can,” Pintola said of the interest in the license.
Pintola said bar owners have mainly asked him about tax requirements and state regulations. Since most of the profits will ultimately go to the state, Pintola said he does not believe the gaming license – and the additional paperwork and regulations that come with it – would be beneficial for small bars and pubs.
“Small places, it’s not going to be worthwhile for them,” he said. “Only the bigger places, is it going to work out.”
Under the new law, any establishment with a retail alcoholic beverage license is eligible to apply for a gaming license, except for casinos, grocery stores, venues that hold professional sporting events and businesses with either a club and catering club license or an eating place retail dispenser license, or “E license.”
Kriedeman said that while the eating place exemption can be a “little tricky” when it comes to bars that serve food, most bars have a restaurant, or “R,” license as opposed to an “E” license, which means they are still eligible to apply.
During the informational sessions, the state Department of Revenue will provide information regarding the tavern tax, its filing and payment obligations and annual reporting requirements of the law.
Department of Revenue spokesperson Elizabeth Brassell said bars that are granted a tavern gaming license would be required to pay a five percent host municipality tax and a 60 percent state tax.
“While we recognize taverns’ immediate interest is in understanding the application process to become licensed to sell tavern games, we appreciate this early opportunity to provide taverns basic information about the tax obligations that accompany this new business opportunity,” Secretary of Revenue Dan Meuser said in a news release. “The Department of Revenue is eager to inform taverns to enable them to comply with the tax law, and ultimately, to maximize this new revenue stream for Pennsylvania.”
The state Liquor Control Board will process and approve the applications, but the Gaming Control Board will conduct background checks on applicants and provide that information to the liquor board. The State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement will enforce the licensing and gaming requirements of the law.
For questions about the informational sessions, call (717) 783-8250.