HARRISBURG (WSKG) — A state House panel is considering a plan to help fill significant budget gaps that have been left open for gambling revenue.
The House Gaming Oversight Committee held a public hearing Monday on a longstanding proposal to legalize video gambling terminals in bars and other businesses.
The bill being discussed is House Bill 1010, which would allow up to 35,000 terminals in bars, social clubs, and other such businesses.
Proponents say it could earn $100 million in its first year, and $500 million annually once it’s fully implemented.
Democratic Representative Mike Sturla of Lancaster County–one of the bill’s biggest proponents–said it makes policy sense too, since many thousands of the terminals are already operating illegally.
“Instead of turning a blind eye to an illegal industry that’s going on in the state of Pennsylvania…this really does clean it up for everyone, and lets everyone play on a level playing field,” he said.
Opponents of the bill are mainly allied with traditional casinos, which say remote gambling terminals would “cannibalize” their business.
Republican Representative Mark Mustio of Allegheny County, who’s sponsoring the bill, said casinos’ bottom line shouldn’t be the state’s priority.
“Some have said over the years that we’re partners with the casinos,” he said. “You know, I personally disagree with that. In my opinion, we’re partners with our constituents.”
Many of the plan’s detractors tend to have casinos in their districts.
Gaming revenue expansion is a perennial issue in Harrisburg.
The commonwealth’s current budget left open $100 million for new money from gaming, but the legislature never decided where exactly it would come from.
In his budget proposal for next year, Governor Tom Wolf left another $150 million open for gambling money, while a House GOP plan also requires some additional revenue.