Gambling expansion crapshoot

Nellie Drew, a sports-law professor at the University of Buffalo, told the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. Supreme Court’s on May 14 decision invalidating federal prohibitions on sports betting across the country would “add an entirely different dimension to fan engagement.”

That’s without a doubt.

Drew went on to voice the correct observation that “what remains to be seen is whether it’s a good dimension.”

That aligns with concerns that the Mirror has expressed a number of times in regard to gambling-expansion proposals.

Besides opening another window for an increase in gambling addiction by individuals who have difficulty controlling their penchant for betting, thus risking financial and family problems, there’s the broader impact that the high court’s decision will have on states, including Pennsylvania.

The decision will have a detrimental effect on some already-existing gambling options.

Money for gambling isn’t limitless, and when money is shifted to a new gambling option, there will be less money poured into games and gambling facilities that players had frequented previously.

The Keystone State already is experiencing a gambling expansion in the form of new mini-casinos and other new gaming locations and games as a result of the Legislature’s reach last fall for additional revenue to help balance this fiscal year’s — plus future years’ — state budgets.

Even without the sports betting that’s on the horizon, last fall’s legislative action might be poised to produce more negative results in the end than positive ones. Here’s why:

In addition to the prospect of more problem gamblers, the new menu of gambling options likely will hurt the Pennsylvania Lottery, on which the commonwealth’s senior citizen programs are dependent, and further saturate the gambling landscape to the point of bringing about the demise of some gambling venues that might currently be meeting expectations.

Meanwhile, casinos and other gambling opportunities in neighboring states will continue to compete for Pennsylvania residents’ gambling dollars. Just like with central Pennsylvania residents’ trips to out-of-the-area malls and shopping centers, even though the same merchandise is available locally, state residents will continue to travel to other states’ gambling meccas to play the same games available here.

Then there’s the allure of gambling in Las Vegas that won’t go away, no matter how many casinos and other “exciting” gambling opportunities dot Pennsylvania.

Yes, the Supreme Court has opened a new dimension, but it’s a new dimension of concern that should worry not only Pennsylvania lawmakers, but also other state residents who understand the dangers of succumbing to gambling’s expensive temptations.

In its ruling, the high court sided with a challenge brought by the state of New Jersey, which argued that the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was an intrusion into states’ rights to regulate activity within their borders.

Pennsylvania is one of the states that already has passed legislation paving the way for the new sports wagers in question.

It’s been widely reported that professional sports leagues and gambling operators already are gearing up to compete with the states for their share of potentially billions of dollars of new revenue.

There will be big winners — but also big losers.

Caution and good judgment are indispensable for what lies ahead.

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