Activists slam ideas to boost revenue from Pa. gaming industry as preying on gamblers

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     (NewsWorks File Photo)

    (NewsWorks File Photo)

    A new report that offers ideas on how to make more money through gambling in Pennsylvania has some activists upset.

    The report’s name says it all: “The Current Condition and Future Viability of Casino Gaming in Pennsylvania.”

    Among the suggestions the report offers are allowing alcohol sales after 2 a.m. and letting players cash third-party and personal checks worth more than $2,500.

    Casino-Free Philadelphia’s Dan Hajdo said the group is specifically concerned about a suggestion to allow casinos to offer credit card cash advances on the gaming floor.

    “This is predatory lending at its best or worst — depending on how you look at it,” Hadjo said.

    The policy targets people who are gambling and have lost, he said.

    “They maxed out their credit card, they maxed out their ATM and now the casino is looking for ways to get hold of more cash,” Hadjo said.

    The report’s mission was to answer a question, said Stephen Mullin, president of Econsult Solutions Inc., the group that produced the report for the state Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.

    “What does this competitive landscape look like over the next five, 10, 15 years, and what types of things might the state want to take a look at in order to make sure that Pennsylvania’s gaming industry remains competitive?” he said.

    The report attempts to look into the future as competition in the mid-Atlantic region heats up, he said. The suggestions are based on interviews with casino operators and industry experts about regulations and how gaming policies differ by state.

    “We looked at the gaming industry throughout the United States,” he said. “We also spoke with the local economic development officials in the jurisdictions where Pennsylvania casinos exist.”

    Mullin pointed out that the suggestions included in the report need to be examined, with all factors and considerations taken into account.

    The region’s gambling has become extremely competitive with casinos now operating in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and New York.  New Jersey offers online gambling, but players have to be inside the Garden State to participate.

    Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, said any changes suggested in the report would require legislative approval.

    Despite a drop in revenue, Harbach said, Pennsylvania is the No. 2 commercial casino gaming market in the country, second only to Nevada.

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    THE CURRENT CONDITION AND FUTURE VIABILITY OF CASINO GAMING IN PENNSYLVANIA (PDF)

    THE CURRENT CONDITION AND FUTURE VIABILITY OF CASINO GAMING IN PENNSYLVANIA (Text)

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