If anyone still wonders if legalizing casinos was good for Pennsylvania, the 2012 gambling revenue figures provide the answer -- an emphatic "yes."
In a development that even the most optimistic casino promoter might not have predicted a decade ago, slot machine play and total casino gambling in this state last year brought in more money than any place but Nevada. Even neighboring New Jersey, home of Atlantic City, the Las Vegas of the East, showed a smaller take than Pennsylvania.
That's $1.3 billion worth of good news for taxpayers.
According to Spectrum Gaming Group, an industry consultant, slot machines in Pennsylvania brought in $3.1 billion in revenue during the 12-month period ending Oct. 31. By comparison, Nevada -- home of the real Las Vegas -- rang up $6.8 billion from slots, with the state of Indiana in third place with $2.3 billion. New Jersey was fourth, with $2.2 billion.
With revenue from table games added in, Pennsylvania's total revenue from legal gambling was $3.8 billion -- second behind Nevada's $10.9 billion, with New Jersey third at $3.1 billion. That figure represents a 5.8 percent drop from the previous year, and New Jersey's loss was Pennsylvania's gain.
Spectrum's Joseph Weinert told the Post-Gazette's Mark Belko that Pennsylvania's 7.3 percent growth was at the expense of Atlantic City.
Since Pennsylvania authorized slot machines in 2004, 11 casinos have opened and one more, at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Fayette County, is due to open this summer.
Slots revenue is taxed at about 55 percent, and proceeds go mainly toward property tax relief. For the average homeowner, that means a savings of nearly $200 -- far less than proponents had projected but a savings nonetheless. Local governments that host casinos also get revenue, reducing the burden on the average taxpayer, and in Pittsburgh the Rivers Casino provided a big chunk of the funding stream that built the Consol Energy Center, which replaced the Civic Arena.
If Pennsylvania's competitive advantage continues to increase, that can only mean better news ahead for the citizens who benefit from the revenue and the jobs and ancillary business created by the casinos.