It’ll take at least a year to enact Pa.’s new gambling expansion

Instead of raising taxes, lawmakers turned to gambling to help fill a budget hole. (AP)

Instead of raising taxes, lawmakers turned to gambling to help fill a budget hole. (AP)

Pennsylvania is starting the lengthy process of making far-reaching expansions to its gambling industry.

Among the law’s major provisions are legalization of video gaming terminals — or VGTs — in truck stops, and licensing of 10 new miniature casinos.

Counties can opt not to allow VGTs, and municipalities can do the same for mini-casinos.

State Gaming Control Board spokesman Doug Harbach said those moves must happen by Dec. 29 and 31, respectively, but they haven’t heard from anyone yet.

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“These government bodies will be working with their solicitors to look at the language and then making some decisions in the near future,” he predicted.

The number of counties and municipalities that opt out of the expansion will help determine how much revenue the state gets.

In the budget they passed recently, lawmakers banked on making $200 million through gambling — an estimate some say is too high.

Enacting the expansion will involve auctioning off casino licenses — something the board has never done before.

Casinos currently operating in the state will get first dibs, and then the bidding will open to outside casinos if all 10 licenses aren’t awarded.

Harbach said the entire process will take a while.

“It’s impossible to put any timetable right now on all of this,” he said. “But suffice it to say, it’s going to take months, and, in some cases, closer to a year on some of them to try and get everything out.”

The board has monthly meetings scheduled this week, but Harbach said it’s too soon to start discussing gambling specifics.

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