Tether that camel: Online gambling would be a step too far

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In trying to plug a looming budget gap of more than $1 billion, state lawmakers shouldn’t bet on one proposal that may seem tempting — the legalization of Internet gambling in Pennsylvania.

A Philadelphia firm, Econsult Solutions, estimates that by taxing online poker at 20 percent and online slots-style games at 60 percent, the state could bring in $68 million in direct tax revenues the first year and $113 million in following years.

Hold it right there. Not only is this a relatively small return in the overall budget, but it comes with some major problems. One of them is the camel in the tent.

To pacify opposition at the time, legalized gambling in Pennsylvania was sold on the idea that casinos would be limited to slot machines. But table games later ended up being added because casinos here did not want to be at a competitive disadvantage with casinos in other states. Then legalized gambling was extended to taverns for raffles, daily drawings and other games of chance.

 

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If Gov. Tom Corbett had succeeded in privatizing the state Lottery, Pennsylvania would have had online sales and the Keno game — all without a substantive public debate.

That has to happen before legislators pick this as a ticket to make an expedient fix to a deficit problem. Gov. Corbett recently expressed concerns about minors and gamblers with addiction problems if legalized gambling is expanded. He should be — the camel has wandered too far afield already.


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