PA shouldn’t bet on casinos for fast tax fix
While there is no such thing as a sure bet, it’s a fairly safe wager that the upcoming mini-casino auction will be a bust.
State lawmakers in June, wishing for a tax boost, ordered the state Gaming Control Board to try to auction off a mini-casino license.
But unlike in Disney’s “Pinocchio,” wishing upon a star doesn’t make “your dreams come true.”
The odds of the state even getting a bid in the Sept. 2 auction are astronomical given that no bids were received in the two most recent auctions for a license in 2018 and 2019. The state initially had hoped to auction off 10 mini-casino licenses, but interest evaporated after five licenses were auctioned off, which had the effect of making the state’s major population centers off-limits as sites because of a 40-mile exclusion zone around existing licensed areas.
While the Altoona, State College and Williamsport regions, and rural areas along Pennsylvania’s northern and western borders, remain as options, potential bidders could not see winning hand in those areas after paying for a license, building a facility, covering overhead and paying high taxes.
If that was the case in 2018 and 2019 when the economy was booming, why would anyone believe things would be different given 2020’s coronavirus-ravaged economy? And don’t forget the COVID-19 pandemic kept casinos largely closed for about four months.
Someone might have their competency questioned — or be a business genius to see what others cannot — to bid on a license given these circumstances.
We understand state lawmakers’ desire to find more tax revenue to bridge Pennsylvania’s budget abyss. But the state has pretty much milked casino gambling dry, and in the process, put the state lottery in a bind.
Legislators and the governor need to look elsewhere for a new infusion of tax revenue. Trying to sell more licenses for casinos is just wasting time.
Pennsylvania isn’t “Pinocchio,” and dreams don’t always come true.