Pennsylvania Passes Largest Gambling Bill in Years

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed gambling legislation that had been unveiled only hours earlier. The proposed legislation aims to expand casino-style gambling to a number of different places, including the internet, airports, and bars. The need for such legislation comes from a need to address deficits in the state’s finances.

The house just barely passed the vote late Wednesday night, with a vote of 102-89 in favor of the legislation. This marks one of the biggest gambling expansions since casinos were first legalized in the state of Pennsylvania in 2004. The decision to pass the bill was a victory for many lawmakers, who had been working for years to bring legal gambling to bars throughout the state. To many, the bill was viewed as a last-ditch effort to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and license fees to assist in solving some of the state’s financial difficulties.

A Solution to Financial Woes?

House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana believes that the vote will be key in temporarily cooling state budge negotiations that will be going on throughout the month. The bill represents an alternative to other, less popular options to help raise money for the state, such as increased taxes.

The bill was proposed by Republican majority leaders and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has yet to voice his opinion of the bill. The proposed legislation would allow any liquor license holder to operate slot machine-style gambling machines. An estimated 40,000 terminals would be allowed statewide. Wolf did disclose in a statement, however, that he is committed to reaching a consensus on gambling legislation that carries new revenue and protects jobs and programs for seniors.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Despite passing the bill, the legislation still has many opponents. A number of house representatives expressed their concerns in a bill that had been revealed and passed in the same day, especially a bill that would essentially legalize gambling in thousands of bars across the state. Whenever a gambling bill is taken into consideration there is a fear of increased gambling addiction and this bill has brought much of the same.

Supporters are arguing that a number of the activities that the bill is legalizing are already going on, illegally. More importantly, perhaps, the bill would be giving power to a number of small business owners, who would otherwise be unable to compete in the battle of “Main Street vs. Wall Street”. Many who voted in favor of the bill hope to see the tax revenue it would generate benefit bar owners, local governments, veterans organizations, and volunteer fire companies. The decision to legalize casinos in the state in 2004 has since made Pennsylvania the nation’s No. 2 commercial casino revenue state. It appears that the House of Representatives hopes this new legislation could bring with it similar success.