State may be approaching gambling overkill

The future holds the answer of whether gambling-saturation fears have begun detouring Pennsylvania’s journey into gaming expansion.

Even more importantly, hanging out there is the question of whether — and how much — that possible new development will impact Keystone State budget preparation going forward.

Despite more optimistic budget projections for 2018-19 than there have been in a number of years, this state’s fiscal fortunes aren’t anything about which lawmakers and the governor can feel overly optimistic.

Besides that, an important development on the new casinos front during the past week should be generating a degree of alarm among those involved in budget preparation for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1, and who no doubt also are looking ahead to fiscal years beyond.

Anemic revenue causes budget holes — deficits — that could be difficult to resolve both for the short and longer terms.

Wednesday was the day when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board was to receive bids for the sixth of up to 10 mini-casino licenses that the commonwealth intends to award.

However, when it was time to collect the bids, no one was present to submit any.

As an article in Thursday’s Mirror described the situation, the gaming board found itself amid “uncharted waters.”

The article explained that the lack of bids would trigger a process outlined in the gambling-expansion law enacted last October.

The gaming board now has the discretion to decide whether a new and more expanded round of auctions is in the best interest of the commonwealth.

While a new round might not be in the best interests of individuals who jeopardize their financial future by losing money at slot machines or gaming tables, such an additional round is necessary if the state is to have a chance to meet or exceed gambling revenue projections, some of which were injected into this year’s state spending package that runs through June 30.

Gambling saturation remains a very real concern for Pennsylvania, not only regarding the existing casinos and those being planned, but also in regard to how much money the state lottery might lose as a result of players opting for casino play rather than lottery tickets.

It’s also no secret that casinos in states surrounding Pennsylvania are luring players from this state; Pennsylvania residents also dole out millions of dollars at casinos in Las Vegas each year.

And, as we have noted in past editorials, gambling money isn’t limitless. Sooner or later, players are faced with the realization that they must scale back their play or risk financial trouble.

The delay in awarding the sixth mini-

casino’s license means a temporary, unwanted challenge to state government’s attempt to assemble a reasonable, balanced 2018-19 spending package.

However, the bigger, longer-term concern is gambling saturation — the losing scenario toward which the state is moving quickly.

Wednesday’s lack of bids for the sixth mini-casino should be acknowledged as a warning sign.

If there are similar problems with the four other authorized “mini” licenses beyond the problem sixth one, state leaders might have to rethink their current view of gambling as an unfailing budget crutch.

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