Advertisement

On this issue, forget haste

March 09, 1999

In just two months, citizens of Pennsylvania may have to decide whether to say yes or no to the largest expansion of legalized gambling ever contemplated in the state.

If approved, the proposed May 18 referendum could authorize more than a dozen riverboat casinos for the state's largest cites, slot machines for Pennsylvania's horse tracks and video poker devices for the state's bars and taverns.

The measure still needs the approval of the state senate, but if approved it would ask citizens to cast yea-or-nay votes on floating casinos, race track slots and video-poker machines.

Our position on gambling expansion is well-known: The lure of new revenues often blinds officials to the problems that come along with it - the creation of a new group of gambling addicts, the tendency of casinos to wipe out existing restaurants and hospitality-type businesses and the increased cost of regulation and policing.

Advertisement

How much gambling is enough? The Associated Press reports that Pennsylvania's state lottery garnered $1.7 billion last year. Horse racing brought in another $850 million. And then there are the games of chance sponsored by non-profits, including bingo, raffles and other activities.

As fire companies have found when commercial bingo operators come in with bigger jackpots, nonprofits have a tough time matching the financial muscle of the for-profit operations. But what those players searching for the bigger payoffs forget is that without their support, nonprofits may have to seek a bigger share of tax dollars.

Two months hardly seems like enough time to explore the issue of how nonprofits would be hurt by an expansion of for-profit gambling, let alone to calculate the state's increased costs for regulating new forms of gambling and dealing with an increased number of gambling addicts.

Gambling expansion should be handled with at least as much care as the state's deregulation of electric power sales, which gave citizens more than six months to explore their options. In this case, there's much more at stake than cheaper electric power, and no justification for a rush to judgment.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|