As gambling competition builds, Pa. study may signal expansion

    Lawmakers in Pennsylvania have watched state coffers warily as neighboring states introduce and expand gambling, causing greater regional competition for dollars and flattening revenue in the state.

    A move to study gambling in the commonwealth is the first clear overture to expanding the industry, either by way of allowing more casinos or legalizing online gaming.

    The resolution is coming from Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, who says he wants to figure out how to reverse the decline in gambling revenue.

    “There’s probably some very obvious answers as to why we’re seeing that,” said Scarnati, R-Jefferson. “But what my resolution is asking for is really a look over the mountain — see what Pennsylvania maybe should be doing.”

    The study should consider how online gaming might affect casino revenues and employment, he said.

    It would be due by next May, giving lawmakers time to include any recommendations in the spending plan for the next fiscal year.

    Many lawmakers balked at the governor’s move earlier this year to unilaterally allow online gambling through the state lottery without legislative approval first.

    But it appears to be on the table as lawmakers get ready to negotiate another difficult budget next year due to revenues coming in below estimated levels.

    Last month, they approved a move to expand small games of chance in bars and taverns to bring in a little extra money for the commonwealth

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