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Parx-Area Senator Writes Scathing Anti-VGT Op-Ed

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As Harrisburg lawmakers continue their efforts to finalize funding for the state’s budget, at least one politician is taking to the newspapers to voice his opposition to the contentious gambling bill that plays a role in that yet-to-be-funded budget.

State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney represents Bucks County, home of Parx Casino. He wrote an op-ed in The Intelligencer (paywall) that was like a well-placed jab: quick, powerful and well-timed.

In the letter, McIhinney said that the gambling bill’s tavern-terminal piece was bad for Bucks County.

“Quite simply, I remain steadfast in my opposition to VGTs because I agree with the people I represent that this is simply the wrong option for our community and our state. Bucks County does not need up to 3,000 of these machines scattered throughout our communities with little to no concern for where they are located.”

McIlhinney argues VGT’s jeopardize Bucks County revenue, livelihood

The state senator’s beef with the gambling bill isn’t so much with the video gambling terminals themselves, but the revenue from those terminals.

Casinos previously paid handsome host fees to local communites. Those fees helped build city infrastructure. However, the tax revenue from slots goes to Harrisburg.

Not only that, McIlhinney argued, but taverns will pull customers away from Parx.

“Bucks County taxpayers should not lose more dollars to Harrisburg by diluting the positive financial and economic impact that Parx Casino provides our communities,” McIlhinney wrote. “We should not balance the budget on the backs of Bucks County’s — and Pennsylvania’s — underprivileged.”

Struggle similar to AC casino expansion

That VGT’s are a contentious part of the Pennsylvania gambling bill is nothing new. The same issues arose in 2016. Like this year, the state’s budget included revenue from a proposed gambling bill.

However, video gambling terminals and a few other issues kept the bill in limbo. As a result, it never made it to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk. The scenario repeated itself this year,. Finalization of the gambling bill will hopefully happen in the fall, but no earlier.

Casinos have long-feared cannibalization. In Pennsylvania, it’s VGT’s. In Atlantic City in 2016, it was new casinos in North Jersey.

Gambling history in both of these states indicates that casino owners, the residents of cities/towns with casinos, and many state lawmakers do not take kindly to any in-state expansion bills that could jeopardize the well-being of the state’s established casinos.

Lawmakers have a massive task ahead of them. And as the days zoom by, the general public and Harrisburg’s denizens are getting antsy.

J.R. Duren

About

J.R. Duren is a freelance writer and author, and has won the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism award three times. He contributes to numerous publications, including Snooth, the Villages Daily Sun, Bespoke Post, and Barcelona Metropolitan.