Pennsylvania’s hopes of expanding its online gambling industry seem to have hit a roadblock now that Democratic Governor Tom Wolf said that the state would be better served by focusing on developing areas that could generate meaningful revenue instead of legislating to expand the gambling industry.
The state’s Republican legislature is pushing for a big expansion of its gambling industry in order to generate revenues for the state. Lawmakers intend to place approximately 40,000 slot-like gambling machines in many new locations including truck stops, restaurants, bars, and also airport terminals. The push for gambling will also include legalising internet casinos as well as daily fantasy sports. They also wish to have sports betting rules in place so that they can respond quickly if the federal government amends its current stance on the activity.
Governor Wolf’s budget proposal for the state is worth $32.3 billion, including new spending amounting to $1 billion. The state’s Republican lawmakers argue that gambling is the simplest way to bridge any budget deficit. But the Governor has asked them to focus on other measures that include development of natural gas resources, streamline corporate loopholes, and also generate more revenues from state police coverage for municipalities. Wolf is eager to generate funds to pay for education programmes. Also, push to deal with the state’s opioid epidemic.
Pennsylvania is facing a massive drug addiction crisis that has led to more than 4,800 deaths from overdose in 2016 alone. The Pennsylvania State Coroners Association states that the correct picture will only be available when official overdose numbers are compiled. Governor Wolf has made this one of his top priorities. In fact, Dr. Karen Murphy, the state’s Secretary of Health has said that this is the worst public health crisis experienced by the state. Wolf has proposed a budget of $10 million to buy the anti-opioid medication Naloxone. But the House budget limited it to only $1 million.
Wolf believes that the legalisation of online gambling will do nothing to expand the business. It will merely divert revenues from the state’s existing land based casinos, which provide direct and indirect employment to many people. In fact, he said that online gambling would just ‘cannibalise’ its land-based counterpart. The state has 14 land based gambling establishments at present. Furthermore, he has stated that gambling expansion alone wouldn’t be able to bridge the budget deficit.
Friday Budget Deadline
Pennsylvania lawmakers are presently hard at work finalizing details of the state’s budget ahead of Friday’s deadline. However, a standoff seems most likely between the Democrat Governor and the Republicans who control both chambers of the legislature. This problem is not a new one! The governor’s initial budget proposal led to the state’s longest budget deliberation ever. The state had to go without a budget for 267 days before the governor buckled. However, at that time he allowed the budget to become law by not signing or vetoing it.
PA Republicans In Disarray?
While the governor’s opposition to gambling expansion is well known, it might not be entirely smooth sailing for the bill. This is because of disagreements within the Republican camp. The State House has recently passed a bill to legalise the industry. It has done it as a means of funding the economy. However, there seems to be little support for it from the Republicans in the higher chamber.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre County) went so far as to say that the magnitude of the proposed gambling increase did make him nervous. However, many lawmakers have an opposing viewpoint. They are eager to provide gambling opportunities to their communities via video gaming terminals in dining and other establishments.