Pa. Senate GOP seeks online gambling to generate cash

     Joe DeFeo waits for patrons at a three-card poker table at Harrah's Casino in Chester. GOP legislative leaders are proposing plans to allow casinos to offer online gaming.(AP file photo)

    Joe DeFeo waits for patrons at a three-card poker table at Harrah's Casino in Chester. GOP legislative leaders are proposing plans to allow casinos to offer online gaming.(AP file photo)

    State Senate Republicans want to tweak casino rules and legalize online gambling this year to help ease Pennsylvania’s fiscal woes.

     

    A forthcoming proposal would allow round-the-clock alcohol sales and let certain casinos put slot machines miles away from their main premises. The big change, however, would be letting existing casinos offer online gambling.

    A report last year found the state could generate more than $100 million in tax and fee revenue from Internet gambling alone.

    “There’s definitely a competitive aspect to it,” said Casey Long, a policy staffer for Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, one of the sponsors of the gambling measure. “Two of our neighboring states, New Jersey and Delaware, have implemented online gaming, and I think that it’s important that Pennsylvania keep up with what other states are doing in the gaming industry.”

    “It’s certainly preferable to any sort of tax increase that the governor may be proposing that this time,” Long added.

    Lawmakers have repeatedly looked to gambling expansions to plug budget holes. In 2013, they legalized tavern gambling, but the move failed to bring in estimated revenues when taverns were slow to sign up for licenses. Slot machine gambling was legalized in 2004 to reduce property taxes.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.