More than a game: Lawmakers must debate new forms of gambling

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Just because Gov. Tom Corbett has abandoned plans to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery for now doesn’t mean he can significantly expand gambling without a go-ahead from the Legislature.

But that’s where the administration seems to be headed.

After several setbacks, a bid from Camelot Global Services to run the state lottery expired, and now lottery managers are looking for ways to deliver higher profits from the games. At the top of the list of possibilities is keno, a game in which players pick numbers in the hopes of matching ones that are randomly chosen by a computer. Drawings occur at far greater frequency than other lottery games — in West Virginia new numbers are pulled every five minutes and in Missouri it happens every four minutes. Terminals where it could be played would be in bars, restaurants and other retail outlets.

The speed of the betting makes keno a particularly troublesome game for people who can’t resist the lure of gambling.

That doesn’t necessarily rule it out for Pennsylvania. Opponents made similar claims about slot machine gambling before the Legislature legalized it and again when lawmakers said Pennsylvania casinos could add table games.

But the decision to add keno or to expand the lottery with new forms of gambling should not be made by the administration. The choice should be made by the Legislature, after the public has had ample opportunity to comment.

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