Governor expects revenue from online gambling expansion
Pennsylvania, the nation’s second-largest commercial casino state, is taking an even deeper plunge into gambling and will allow people to bet online, in airports and at truck stops.
With government leaders searching for money to plug holes in Pennsylvania’s tattered finances, Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday signed legislation authorizing a major expansion of gambling.
Under the measure, the state will become the fourth to allow offer online gambling, joining Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. It also makes Pennsylvania the first state to allow online play for both commercial casinos and its state lottery, as both go in search of newer and younger players.
Wolf, a Democrat, had not been enthusiastic about expanding gambling, but he entertained the idea in dealings with a Republican-controlled Legislature that saw it as a better option to balance the state’s persistent deficits than a tax increase.
While lawmakers also saw a gambling expansion as a way to bring tax revenue to their districts and pet projects, Wolf had focused on ensuring a gambling expansion would not damage the state’s existing tax collections from casino revenues or receipts from the struggling Pennsylvania Lottery.
“There’s been a lot of pressure from a lot of places in the commonwealth to actually expand this, and we do need some recurring revenue,” Wolf told reporters Monday. “Again, the goal has been all along to do what’s prudent, not cannibalize existing gambling revenue coming to the state, and I think what we’re settling on will actually do that.”
In addition to online play, the new law will allow the state to be peppered with games of chance.
Ten of the state’s 12 existing casinos will be able to bid on a license for a new, smaller casino with hundreds of slot machines. Bidding would start at $7.5 million, with a table games certificate costing an extra $2.5 million, for a casino limited to 750 slots and 30 table games. Currently, the state’s larger casinos can operate up to 5,000 slot machines.
Meanwhile, casinos will be able to offer interactive gambling parlors in eight airports, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, while qualifying truck stops can operate up to five slot machine-style monitors called video gaming terminals. Only Nevada and Puerto Rico currently allow airport gambling.