General Assembly intent on expanding gambling to taverns

Our illustrious state Legislature wants to expand gambling via raffles and small games of chance to for-profit taverns and bars.

This while considering increasing the speed limit on interstates to 70 mph.

And, lest we forget, many lawmakers and the governor want to privatize the state lottery.

So we read with frustration the Senate’s recent 39 to 11 approval of legislation to allow for-profit taverns and bars to run gambling, thus taking away needed fundraising dollars from fire companies and nonprofit social clubs whose mandated and significant benevolence is critical to the well-being of many other community organizations and initiatives.

Specifically, the approved proposal would allow bars and restaurants with liquor licenses to host pull-tabs and daily drawings with revenue split between the establishment and the state, as well as 50-50 raffles.

Our lawmakers just seem intent on allowing more gambling at every turn in Pennsylvania to feed their hungry budget coffers, rather than enact meaningful job-creation legislation or cut their own spending.

We don’t begrudge for-profit businesspeople from wanting to make more money, but small games of chance were meant for and are very important to nonprofits who are mandated by law to distribute upward of 70 percent of their proceeds to charities.

That works.

Both the licensed beverage association and the governor’s office estimate that about 2,000 establishments would receive tavern gaming licenses. Gov. Tom Corbett says the proposal would generate $156 million in annual tax revenues.

House Bill 1098 passed the Senate with the support of 21 Democrats and 18 Republicans. Among area senators voting for the bill were John Wozniak, Jake Corman, Gene Yaw and Joe Scarnati.

The House expects to take action soon after returning to Harrisburg from election break on Nov. 12.

Full General Assembly approval and Corbett’s signature are likely.

The legislation would limit individual prizes to $2,000 and total weekly prizes to $35,000. Tavern raffles could be held once a month. Revenue from tavern games would be subject to a 60 percent state tax. In the case of 50-50 raffles, half the proceeds would go to charity while the remaining revenue would be taxed at the 60 percent rate.

What about the increased law enforcement costs associated with this expansion of gambling?

We side with Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, and the Pennsylvania Federation of Fraternal and Social Organizations, which represents VFWs, Elks clubs and fire companies, in opposing this bill.

Allowing for-profit taverns and bars a small games of chance will put pressure on fundraising efforts by fire companies, veterans groups, churches and community organizations and result in less revenue for lottery programs.

Small games of chance should be preserved for not-for-profit fundraising.

Make no mistake, this is “we need more money for our budget” legislation by state lawmakers.

– The (Lock Haven) Express