Senator Gordner Opposes Expansion of Gambling

I rise to oppose the Conference Committee Report on Senate Bill 711.

Many of us who voted in favor of Senate Bill 711 as it originally left the Senate, and Senate Bill 1088, are disappointed that the expansion of table games has been included in these important gaming reforms.  We wish the issues of gaming reform and gaming expansion could be considered separately.

The gaming reforms contained in this bill are important, and many of us who will be voting against SB 711 do support these provisions, including:

  • Re-establishing the political campaign contribution prohibition over-turned by the court.
  • Requiring the Gaming Board to collect and publicly post casino ownership interest disclosure.
  • Requiring the Gaming Board to publicly post expenses of board members and employees.
  • Amending the felony ban provisions of the Gaming Act to include a lifetime ban on license applicants with a felony conviction, and providing for a criminal history disclosure for all applicants.
  • Providing that state employees who regulate gaming are not subject to furloughs in the event of a budget impasse.

These reforms and others are not enough to overcome my opposition to the current bill because of the expansion of gaming in Pennsylvania through table games.

There are claims the Commonwealth needs the additional revenue, but there are those of us who believe the fiscal health of the Commonwealth should not rest on gambling.

Fees and taxes from gaming will be deposited in the General Fund.  Unlike slot machine revenue, which is targeted for important property tax relief for our constituents, table games revenue will be used to fund government operations.

The legislation does contain a provision that once the Rainy Day Fund reaches $750 million, table games revenue will go to the Property Tax Relief Fund.  However, today, the Rainy Day fund is zero.  The Rainy Day Fund is only replenished when the state runs a surplus, and the contribution is only 25% of that surplus.  Given these two facts, it will be quite a while before any table game revenue can be targeted for important property tax relief.

I am especially troubled by the provision that allows casinos to extend unlimited and unsecured credit to slot machine and table games players.  This could lead to absolute financial devastation for some players and their families by causing them to play for more than they can afford.

Mr. President, there are important reforms in this bill.  But the good is outweighed by the expansion of gaming, the lack of property tax relief for our constituents and provisions such as the extension of credit to gamblers.

For these reasons, I urge a negative vote on the Conference Committee Report on Senate Bill 711.