PA Facing Budget Shortfall That Online Gambling Revenue Could Fix

Posted on January 3, 2017

[toc]Gambling of all sorts tends to put smiles on the faces of state legislators who want to balance budgets.

Pennsylvania knows this well; host fees for casinos have provided towns and counties with millions of dollars for improvements to infrastructure, law enforcement, and more.

Despite these benefits, the Pennsylvania Senate chose not to pass a bill that would introduce online gambling and daily fantasy sports to the state, among other changes to the gambling landscape.

At the same time, Pennsylvania is struggling with a well-publicized $600 million deficit that the state’s fiscal office says could grow to $3 billion in seven years.

Not only that, but the state’s 2016-2017 budget included $100 million from the gambling bill, which was passed by the House, an indication that perhaps Gov. Tom Wolf was overly confident the bill would clear the Senate.

Talk of cutting benefits, jobs

A recent article from Penn Live chronicled the state’s budget woes, noting that legislators are ready to do anything they can to cut down on the deficit, but say they aren’t willing to cut services to their constituents.

Exactly how lawmakers plan to trim the deficit is anyone’s guess, as the state has had ample time to come up with a solution and have yet to do so.

PA gambling efforts garner support and opposition

For a season, part of that solution seemed to be the gambling expansion bill. However, experts hounded the bill, raising complaints over a variety of issues.

In one case, State Senator Robert Tomlinson released a seven-page letter beseeching his colleagues to remove online and DFS gambling provisions in the bill.

One of Tomlinson’s main arguments was that online gambling would snatch revenue away from land-based casinos. As soon as Tomlinson’s letter gained traction, 75 percent of the state’s casinos penned a letter saying they supported online gambling.

The SUNY Rockefeller Institute of Government even jumped in the fight, saying that, while online gambling revenue could bring short-term fiscal benefits to the state, the long-term benefits wouldn’t be nearly as lucrative.

Image c/o Goya Bauwens / CC BY-NC 2.0

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J.R. Duren

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.

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