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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

PA's Gambling Expansion Bill

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Jun 12, 2017 8:00 PM
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The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved a sweeping gambling bill last week to generate money for the cash-straved state.  House Bill 271 was introduced by Republican lawmakers and passed narrowly by a 102-89 vote with legislators from both parties voting for and against the proposal.

The bill would allow video gaming machines to be operated by bars, truck stops, bowling alleys, VFW's and private clubs.  It could lead to about 8,000 establishments operating nearly 40,000 machines - each generating tax revenue for state and local governments.  It would also facilitate the development of online gaming and lottery playing and allow online fantasy sports gambling.

Supporters point to the much-needed tax revenue.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana Co.) said the bill would " . . . actually enhance revenue a little further."  These machines have been used for years, they should be regulated, contend Lancaster Democratic Representative Mike Sturla. "This issue has been around for 30 years and for 30 years there have been members who have turned a blind eye to this," he said.

Opponents are concerned with the speed with which the bill was passed. "If you all had the chance to read it, I don't know how you did it," said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery County.  Others are worried about the impact on their communities.  Philadelphia Representative Jason Dawkins worries that "when you live in communities like mine, when you see poverty, addiction and opioid abuse, you can't understand how we are putting another potential problem in our city."

Tuesday's Smart Talk discusses the merits and potential consequences of the gambling expansion bill with Representatives Mike Sturla and Dawkins as well as Josh Ercole, COO of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania and Robert Howard, co-founder of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Responsible Government.

emails

- One of the two major causes of bankruptcies in Pennsylvania is gambling debt. The other is medical bills. A sin tax on gambling makes those who don't gamble feel good, but it adds more opportunity to those with gambling problems.  Where does the increased revenue really come from?                                                                    - Tom, Carlisle

The best way to help seniors, is to support young people. Supplement seniors and the population gets older with less economic support from younger working people. Devote the dollars to education and healthcare and everyone will prosper. Plus you can support the senior programs as well    - John, Harrisburg

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