State drowning in gambling options

The cool reception bar owners have been giving to Pennsylvania’s new Tavern Gaming Licenses might be resolved over time.

However, for now, state lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett are right in being concerned about so few liquor licensees having come forward to apply for the gambling privilege.

The first-year estimate of how much the state could expect from this new gambling option was $156 million (60 percent of all of the new revenue generated). That estimate is plugged into Corbett’s 2014-15 budget proposal.

The tavern gambling statute allocates 35 percent of the other new revenue to tavern owners, with the host municipality getting the remaining 5 percent.

The law allows bar owners to offer tavern raffles for a charitable or public purpose, pull-tab games and daily drawings.

As a Feb. 20 Mirror article reported, much of the reluctance by tavern owners seems centered on what many believe is a burdensome application process. Also, many bar owners fear what impact there might be on their liquor license if the business ever were found guilty of a gambling violation.

Another legitimate concern of the bar owners is whether the new gambling will generate enough profit to justify offering the games. Not much attention has been focused on establishments’ costs to adapt their operations to the new gambling, including making provisions for more detailed record keeping.

It’s also reasonable to speculate that some tavern owners might have concerns about Pennsylvania being gambling-saturated, thanks to casinos and multiple lottery games. Some owners probably envision that it will take too long for this new gambling option to take hold in a way to deliver meaningful profits.

Even without tavern games, Pennsylvania provides its residents and visitors plenty of gambling opportunities through which to get into financial trouble.

Pennsylvania has developed a knack for enticing people to seek the myriad games’ purported riches, while at the same time soothing its conscience with offers to help people with gambling addictions.

Still not satisfied, the greedy Pennsylvania Lottery gurus have introduced a new $30 instant game – as if the numerous $20 instant games weren’t digging deep enough holes in people’s financial resources.

Rather than upping the emphasis on “hooking” more people into joining the gambling-mania, state lawmakers and the governor should be making more responsible budget decisions not based on gambling revenue.

Regardless, the growing concern in Harrisburg over bar owners’ anemic reception to the new gambling licenses is understandable. The loss of much of the estimated $156 million income stemming from tavern gambling licenses would make it more difficult to fund programs for which the money would be targeted.

But people shouldn’t be unhappy with bar owners if that budget hole materializes. It’s long overdue for Pennsylvania residents to admit that their state has become so gambling-saturated that it is robbing the commonwealth of appreciation of its truly wonderful qualities.

That acknowledged, it would be a hopeful step if bar owners’ cool reception to tavern gambling were to turn much colder.