No more gambling? Don't bet on it!
Has gambling finally hit its saturation point in Pennsylvania?
This week the state decided not to jump into the Internet gambling pool with Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey. Then, the state House and Gov. Tom Corbett objected to a Senate-passed bill that would allow gambling in more than 4,500 bars across the state.
It has been a very long time since gambling advocates have had that bad a run at the Capitol. But it is most likely that their luck will change.
Nevada has authorized Internet gambling, Delaware will introduce it next week and New Jersey plans to do so by December.
But Bill Ryan, chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, says he doesn't see any groundswell of support for Internet gambling, even though a bill to allow it has been introduced in the state Legislature.
As Mr. Ryan noted, Pennsylvania did not authorize casinos until 2004, a quarter century after the birth of the Atlantic City casino industry.
True enough, but in less than a decade, Pennsylvania became the second leading casino state, behind only Nevada. State politicians quickly recognized the political beauty of taking a big cut of the casinos' vigorish, without having to call it a tax. That's why, despite their original vows to limit gambling to slots, they authorized table games after just three years.
That history is predictive. Once other states make their first nickel from online gambling, Pennsylvania will be on board. Spectrum Gaming Group and others estimate that the business could generate $8.5 billion a year by 2019.
The bar gambling bill also will pass, eventually. The issue holding it up is what to do with revenue estimated at $150 million a year.
Mr. Corbett is concerned that it will diminish lottery sales, so he wants the money to go into the lottery fund. Some House members are worried that bar revenue will reduce casino revenue.
So, eventually, most likely, Pennsylvania will help create a new generation of gamblers online and extend the joys of gambling to bars, without a thought about public health and social impact.