Pennsylvania Bans Gambling in Its Saloons

United Press International

Pennsylvania's unexpected two-month experience with gambling has ended with Gov. Richard L. Thornburgh's signing of a bill banning card tournaments in saloons.

Thornburgh signed the measure Thursday, immediately banning all cash contests, including blackjack and poker games, on the premises of any licensed liquor establishment.

State Senate Majority Leader John Stauffer, a Republican supporter of the bill, said Friday that the governor's approval ends a legislative "nightmare."

The measure repeals a law signed last spring that said liquor licensees may sponsor and host "a dart, billiard, bowling, shuffleboard, rings or card tournament."

Embarrassed legislators have said they approved the law without knowing it would permit card games. The governor has argued that the measure did not allow blackjack and poker.

The law originally was designed only to extend the hours of Sunday liquor sales so resorts in the Pocono Mountains could serve champagne brunches. The tournament section was added by a House-Senate conference committee.

After more than a month of debate, the House and Senate each passed the bill Tuesday.

Some tavern owners and lawmakers argued for a bill that would ban only card games but allow other tournaments.

Supporters of the repeal say it is the quickest way to abolish the card games, which have popped up across the state since Jan. 2, when the section of the law allowing gambling was made public.

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