HARRISBURG — When state legislators made a plan to pay for the current fiscal-year state budget, they included money from an expansion of gambling. But nine months later, they still haven't agreed on how do to it.
The demandfor that money hasn't gone away. Gov. Wolf’s proposal for the new fiscal year that begins July 1 also counts on money from gaming expansion.
On Monday, a bipartisan group from House and Senate unveiled the latest proposal, calling for legalizing video-gaming terminals, allowing patrons of bars, clubs and even truck stops to play slots or poker.
The Pennsylvania State Police estimate that 15,000 or more illegal video gambling machines are operating in the state, said spokesman Ryan Tarkowski.
“We need to legalize this industry to bring it out of the shadows through licensure and regulation, to ensure protections against underage and problem gambling while producing much-needed revenue for the commonwealth and our local communities,” said Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, (R., Allegheny).
Rep. Mark Mustio (R., Allegheny), said the proposal could generate $100 million next year and then more if it were fully implemented.
It would allow up to five machines at each bar or tavern and 10 machines at each truck stop and offtrack betting location, Reschenthaler said. Bets would be capped at $5 and payouts at $1,000 per person, he said.
Earlier this month, a House committee and Senate committee held a joint hearing on gaming issues. Last June the House considered legislation that would have legalized online wagering and permitted slot machines in airports and off-track betting locations.
“I think this is going to be part of a larger discussion, this plus other forms of gaming,” Sen. Lisa Boscola (D., Northampton) said at a news conference.
In a statement, Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said the governor is open to “sustainable” sources of revenue that will eliminate the state's structural budget deficit.
“The governor believes the solution should not be detrimental to existing gaming revenue from the lottery and other activities,” Abbott said. “He will continue to work with the General Assembly to meet their commitment to enact gaming legislation while not causing harm to existing operations.”
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) has not taken a position on the bill, spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said in an email.
“We recognize there are many issues surrounding gaming that will be considered before the Senate in the coming months,” she said.