On Wednesday, the State House Gaming Oversight Committee passed HB 649 – which would bring government-sponsored gambling to any computer or mobile device throughout Pennsylvania; as well as video slots machines in airports. This sets the bill up for a vote by the full State House.

Several problems exist if Pennsylvania opens up to online gambling:

Government-backed gambling targets the poor.

Studies show the poorest Pennsylvanians will spend the biggest portion of their income on gambling. Expanding to online gambling fuels a regressive tax on those who can least afford it.

Gambling in video formats brings a greater risk for the poor to lose more money. In the state of Oregon, regular lottery players lose an average of $106 per year. That dwarfs in comparison to regular video poker and slots players, who lose an average of $2,564 every year. Government-backed gambling on any computer or smartphone would only increase the regularity of play – and losses.

Online gambling explodes addiction.

In 2007, at the start of casino gambling in Pennsylvania, the casino self-exclusion list for PA totaled 182. That list has now grown to well over 7,000. What would stop a gambling addict from accessing online sources of gambling?

There is no sure way to prevent addicts from gambling online and it would only continue the growth of gambling addiction.

Tax revenue predictions crash and burn, leaving big budget holes.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie projected $160 million in annual tax receipts from internet gambling. In year one, about $10 million, or 6 percent of the predicted amount, rolled in.

Here in PA, games of chance in taverns and pubs were projected to bring in $150 million in annual revenue. Current annual receipts are roughly a dismal $500,000 – or only 0.33% of projections.

Online gambling is a gateway for minors.

Child computerGambling is touted as a revenue boost to help children and education. Yet if gambling is brought to any household across Pennsylvania, it would sadly provide an easy gateway to expose children and minors to the harms of gambling itself.

Online gambling is a “bust” (Associated Press) and revenue estimates are “pathetic” (Time Magazine). It’s a bad bet, at Pennsylvania’s expense, to expand to government-sponsored online gambling. Tell your elected state officials to oppose HB 649 and any expansion of online gambling. Click here to email them this message.