Coraopolis bar will serve up small games of chance

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At Jailhouse Saloon in Coraopolis, they've got 12 beers on tap, darts leagues and, starting soon, small games of chance.

The bar, at 29 Fifth Ave., is the first in Allegheny County -- and one of the first in the state -- to receive approval for a tavern gaming license from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

The specialized license allows successful applicants to sell pull-tabs, raffle tickets and offer daily drawings. The games will, tavern owners hope, allow bars and restaurants to operate on a more even playing field with private clubs, fraternal organizations and fire halls, which have been allowed to offer games of chance for years.

Public taverns, on the other hand, won that privilege in November, when Gov. Tom Corbett signed Act 90 into law. License applications were made available Jan. 27, and to date, 26 applications have been received.

Of those, six have been formally approved (and issued a gambling license), while eight have been conditionally approved, meaning they still have to pay a $2,000 license fee.

Jailhouse Saloon, as of Wednesday's meeting of the state liquor board, has been conditionally approved for a license.

"We're between a Moose and a VFW," Rodney Gowers, co-owner of the Jailhouse, said in explaining his early application. Pull-tab games will come first, he and his wife, Tammy Gowers, said.

Mr. Corbett's budget office had initially hoped that 1,000 to 2,000 taverns would acquire such licenses, and that the state might generate $100 million in tax revenue for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

But based on early, tepid response from tavern owners, that goal may be hard to hit.

Bill Toland: or 412-263-2625.

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