Senator opposed to more gambling

Eichelberger speaks of gaming bill, schools at Breakfast Club

State Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, said Thursday he remains opposed to further expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Wolf recently signed into law a bill that would allow the state’s 12 existing casinos to bid on a license for 10 new, smaller casinos with hundreds of slot machines.

“I am not a supporter of expanding gambling. I don’t think it is good for our society. I don’t think financially it will solve our problems. It is another risky thing we have done to close the gap. It was a decision made too quickly. We had to find $32 million to close the gap. It was a decision made too quickly and probably won’t close the gap. I wouldn’t change my mind if we had opportunities locally,” Eichelberger said at the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Club at The Casino at Lakemont Park.

State Reps. John McGinnis, R-Altoona, and Judy Ward, R-Hollidaysburg, also attended the breakfast. McGinnis did not vote on the bill but has expressed opposition to expanded gambling in the past.

“I think John and I are in full agreement on this. Funding necessary government programs through the promotion and expansion of gambling is bad public policy. However, if the legislation allows for an opportunity that appeals to local interest, I would support our local interest,” McGinnis said.

Ward said she voted for the gaming expansion because it was the only proposal put forth that did not involve a tax on taxpayers or businesses.

“As far as expanding gambling casinos, that is for each area to decide. Personally I’m not a gambler, but if the municipality decides that is what they want, there can be economic benefits and also a host of disadvantages. Gaming expansion is for each area to decide for themselves what is best for them,” Ward said.

Eichelberger touched on several other topics during a question and answer session.

He said it is possible we may see more school consolidations down the road.

“I think it will come to that; it is a tough subject,” Eichelberger said.

Eichelberger said schools are starting to share more resources through consortiums — things like energy buying and purchasing health insurance.

“People see we need to work together to be get more efficient,” Eichelberger said. “We are in an area with very small schools. Small schools don’t have the buying power to get things done. We will get to the point where we see a lot more sharing of resources.”

Eichelberger also said he is concerned about the political divisiveness across the country.

“That is a real problem. I have never seen the world of politics as divided as it is now; it is really nasty. It is on both sides. It is a different world out there now. It has been escalating the last year or so. We have to get past that as a nation,” Eichelberger said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.