New legislation is working its way through the Pennsylvania General Assembly that would once again expand gambling vices throughout the Commonwealth – and it’s far time that families say enough is enough.
Senate Bill 1256 would allow for over 80,000 slot machines (called video gaming terminals or VGTs) in thousands of local communities across Pennsylvania. Here are three reasons why this latest proposal is very troubling:
1) SB1256 would spread a form of gambling that elevates the risk of addiction.
These video slot machines are the worst form of gambling when it comes to addiction rates. They have been called “electronic morphine” and the “crack cocaine” of gambling due to their visual appeal and fast pace of play.
SB1256 not only would be spreading one of the most highly addictive forms of gambling across our state, but place them in thousands of local communities well outside of brick-and-mortar casinos. States like Illinois have shown that low income neighborhoods are often targeted.
2) We already have too much state-sponsored gambling.
Pennsylvania has already expanded more forms of gambling than almost every other state. In 2004, then-Governor Ed Rendell declared “the people of Pennsylvanians are true winners” with the legalization of what became twelve brick-and-mortar casinos offering tens of thousands of slot machines. (To note: Rendell said at the time, ”We are beginning to reverse the tide of unfairly burdening Pennsylvania homeowners.” How many have received any significant property tax relief?)
These machines “are usually played at a much faster rate than other games, so players can lose money much more quickly,” says the Center for Addiction and Mental Health.
Today, in large part due to Pennsylvania’s most recent gambling expansion in 2017, speed of play is a priority with a slew of new gambling forms:
- Keno: “Fast-paced game.” Drawings held every four minutes.
- iLottery: “Play 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” Drawings held every few minutes.
- Fast Play: Online scratch-off games allow you to gamble “without scratching the ticket or waiting for a drawing.”
- Online casinos: Live dealers 24/7. Place bets anytime, anywhere in Pennsylvania.
- Sports betting: Live betting on every sport anytime, anywhere.
- Video gaming terminals in truck stops: the “crack-cocaine” of gambling, now turning dozens of truck stops into mini-casinos.
The Council of Compulsive Gambling in Pennsylvania identifies one risk factor for gambling addiction as the fast speed of play. Yet that’s exactly what SB1256 is trying to further expand across the Commonwealth.
3. SB1256 would multiply non-casino slot machines by over 400x.
Currently, there are less than 200 slot machines (VGTs) in various truck stops throughout Pennsylvania; legalized through the 2017 massive gambling expansion. SB1256 would allow for the expansion of those slot machines to reach over 80,000 – over 400 times the current amount.
Pennsylvania families need real revenue solutions. Gambling is not the answer. More gambling options that emphasize a fast speed of play is a bad recipe for families in Pennsylvania.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer puts it, each gambling expansion “is focused on maximizing revenues with little regard for the negative impact on local communities.”