Pennsylvania Family Council asks Governor Wolf to veto HB 271, the 939-page harmful bill that passed both chambers in less than 24 hours

HARRISBURG, PA – What began as a six-page bill intended to set up a phone number to help compulsive gamblers turned into a 939-page bill rushed for passage in the legislature that would cause harm to Pennsylvania communities and is something Governor Tom Wolf should now veto.

​”Our legislature has a compulsive gambling problem,” said Michael Geer, President of the Pennsylvania Family Council. “And it’s going to hurt more families across Pennsylvania. What started as a bill to help compulsive gamblers turned into a behemoth of a bill rammed through the legislature that brings some of the most addictive forms of gambling into communities across our state.”

The Senate approved on Wednesday afternoon a revised version of HB 271 with hundreds of pages added. The House then passed the bill within the next 24 hours – actually voting down a measure to delay the bill by a day to allow members to analyze the changes.

It only takes a glance through the hundreds of pages to see our legislature has a gambling problem, and it now only needs Governor Wolf’s signature to become law:

  • Online Gambling: Makes Pennsylvania just the fourth state to legalize online gambling, bringing state-sponsored slots, poker and table games online in any household and making it easier to access for children simply using a laptop or smartphone. It’s also highly addictive, offering fast-paced, 24-hour availability.

  • Most addictive form of gambling: Authorizes “the crack-cocaine of gambling” – video gaming terminals (VGTs) – into Pennsylvania. It will allow truck stops to have up to five VGTs.

  • More Casinos: Authorizes ten satellite casinos, which will now compete with the existing brick-and-mortar casinos and the expected “revenue” they pull in every year. Before this change, Pennsylvania is already the nation’s #2 commercial casino state, behind only Nevada.

  • Online Lottery Sales: Permits the Pennsylvania Lottery to now allow online sales and run “internet instant games” like keno, as long as they do not simulate “casino-style” games. It makes Pennsylvania the first state to allow both casino and lottery games online.

This is not the first time our legislature has rushed to pass gambling expansion. Back in 2004, the legislature took a four-page bill and added hundreds of pages to legalize casinos statewide, passing the bill at 3:00AM on a July 4th weekend.

The National Council for Problem Gambling reports that 2% – 3% of the US population has a gambling problem. That means there would be at least 255,000 Pennsylvanians currently with a gambling problem. Thousands of Pennsylvanians have already put themselves on the casino self-exclusion list – a voluntarily action to try to keep them away from casinos. This list has multiplied by more than 43 times since 2006.

“If you could buy stock in the compulsive gambling industry, sadly now may be a time to buy in Pennsylvania,” said Tom Shaheen, Vice President for Policy of the Pennsylvania Family Council. “Should Governor Wolf sign HB 271, Pennsylvania will become perhaps the most susceptible state to gambling addiction, with now even more ways for Pennsylvanians to lose their money and become addicted. Is giving families more ways and more places to gamble away their money really in the public’s best interest?”

To ask Governor Wolf to veto HB271, call 717-787-2500 or use our Citizen Action Center to send an email.