In Pennsylvania, casinos are not necessarily new but have not been around for a very long time, either. Since the state agreed in 2004 to allow casino-style gambling in the state, the more than 10 casinos across the state have been providing their host communities with millions and millions of dollars annually. These millions of dollars go to the local governments to support education, infrastructure and a variety of other items. What’s more, these casino contributions were an integral part of the reason why the 2004 law ever came to be.
Last week, in what many are calling a surprise decision, the PA Supreme Court essentially ended the stream of payments that PA’s 12 casinos make on an annual basis to the communities that host them. Now, state lawmakers are going to be forced to come up with a way to replace this money via a new agreement. The problem with this is that it will be difficult for lawmakers to come to an agreement seeing as not every district hosts a casino.
A problem experts see lawmakers running into is a situation where a representative from a district or area where no casino exists wants a cut of these casino contributions. These representatives may withhold support for any piece of legislation so long as it provides no benefit to them or their constituents. Another possible problem is that, if these contributions are to continue in some form or another, counties that currently do not have any casino presence will want the law to be loosened such that they can quickly and easily establish casinos of their own so that they can subsequently benefit from the contributions.
The Legal Intelligencer received a statement from Dauphin County Senator Rob Teplitz, who voiced his concerns with regard to contributions coming to an end. He said, in part, “I’m very concerned about the potential loss of funds needed for projects in our community. And I fear that opening up the gaming law to address the court’s concerns could produce a free-for-all that could jeopardize that funding even further.” Teplitz is a representative from the Harrisburg area, which hosts the very successful Hollywood Casino. According to The Legal Intelligencer, that casino alone provided its local community with nearly $15 million in contributions. These contributions helped a stressed budget and provided a lot of good for a community that would have otherwise simply went without.
This is bound to be a long and drawn out legal battle in Pennsylvania, and one that may not come to a conclusion even by the end of 2017. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision, the casinos are now going to drag their feet at even the slightest mention of casino contributions being reinstated. What we do know, however, is that this situation will be an interesting one to follow. What’s more, other states will be keeping a close eye on this battle as similar situations may pan out in other parts of the country as we move forward. While this may not have an immediate impact on casino patrons across the state, it does have the potential, in the long-run, to alter the casino landscape of PA in one way or another.