The large budget deficit is not getting any smaller in Pennsylvania, as lawmakers search for some way out of the continuing debt. Republican officials have been resisting a tax increase to help the budget and are now considering an expansion into gambling, the third time an expansion would take place in the past six years.
A $2.4 billion tax package was presented to Governor Tom Wolf but was shut down by the House and now Dave Reed, the House Majority Leader, has placed an expansion into gambling as a top priority, a possibility that he feels should be considered first before taxes are raised.
Reed stated that he feels the state needs to have discussions first on other avenues of revenue. A conclusion needs to be made on reform of liquor and cost drivers such as the pension system needs to be discussed, as well as looking at gaming. There are several bills in legislature up for consideration including measures that would give casinos in the state the option to offer online gambling or provide slot gaming in new locations across the state.
The legislature of Pennsylvania has been in a partial shutdown for over three months as the government, which is controlled by republicans, has resisted the request by Governor Wolf to increase taxes. The governor feels that a tax increase is necessary to help solve the budget deficit in the state and to be able to correct disparities in funding of public schools.
Wolf is open to an expansion of gambling if the option is included in a comprehensive package that will resolve the long-term deficit which has been projected by the administration as to be multi billion dollars. Mark Nicastre, a spokesman for Wolf stated that an expansion into gambling should be confused with a long-term sustainable revenue source that will fully fix the deficit. Lawmakers on the democratic side have not yet revealed their support or opposition.
Online gambling is being considered in the state, with Senator Kim Ward introducing a bill that would allow the casinos in the state to provide iGambling for a permit fee of $10 million and only to those who are located in the state. However, many feel the revenues from this would only be minimal, on the immediate term. The bill by Ward would also include allowing casinos to provide station slot machines at betting parlors at the race tracks. Another bill by Representative Nick Kotik would see the slot machines placed at the six international airports of the state.
Joe Scarnati, the Senate President Pro Tem, stated that gambling bills did not seem like a great idea when it was presented months ago. But now with massive increases in taxes plus the partial shutdown of the state government, Scarnati believes the perspective of online gambling should change.