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Senate adopts gaming resolution

Published December 05. 2013 05:00PM

A study to determine the future of gambling in Pennsylvania is in the cards: the state Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution calling for the work by a 47-1 vote.

The resolution, proposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati III, R-Jefferson County, will examine the current state of gaming, and help decide whether and how the 2004 Gaming Act should be changed to give Pennsylvania a leg up in the competition for gambling dollars.

The changes may include allowing online gambling.

The Senate vote was enough to start the study. Scarnati wants the study, which will be completed by May 1, because gaming revenues about $6 billion since 2004 are falling flat at the same time that New Jersey and New York are upping the ante by expanding gaming.

Gaming revenue helps provide property tax relief, local projects and emergency services, among other benefits. The state's 12 casinos also employ more than 16,000 people, Scarnati said.

The sole opposing vote on the resolution was by Sen. Scott E. Hutchinson, R-Butler County.

"I think the study is a the first step toward an expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania, something I have traditionally opposed," he said in a telephone interview early Thursday.

Hutchinson said he's concerned that the study will lead to online and other forms of gambling. Expanding gaming would only increase the risks of more people becoming addicted, he said.

"I've seen folks whose lives have been negatively impacted by gambling," Hutchinson said.

Referring to Scarnati's statements that Pennsylvania should follow the examples of New Jersey and New York, Hutchinson said that "I don't think that's how we should be making our decisions.

The study will be done by the Legislative Budget & Finance Committee committee. Local senators David G. Argall, R-Berks-Carbon-Lehigh-Monroe-Northampton-Schuylkill, and John Yudichak, D-Carbon-Luzerne-Monroe, voted in favor of the study.

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