Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
State Senate Republicans have a tentative plan to move legislation by July to expand the Pennsylvania Lottery.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said Wednesday the goal is to hold a vote on a measure to legalize terminal-based games like keno, a fast-paced drawing, before the Legislature's traditional summer recess.
Pileggi's comments came on the heels of a hearing before Senate lawmakers on the subject of lottery expansion. Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser skirted the question of whether the Corbett administration needs legislative approval to boost the lottery's game offerings. He said the governor is seeking "consensus," as well as some statutory changes that would facilitate the addition of games like keno.
"We would be prepared to initiate the rollout of keno by the end of this year, should we get the support necessary to expedite it," Meuser said.
Adding games to the Pennsylvania Lottery's offerings was a condition of the Corbett administration's plan to privatize the lottery's management. That move that was blocked by the state attorney general last year. Meuser told lawmakers Wednesday making the lottery more profitable remains a top priority. Lottery revenues fund programs benefiting seniors, a population on the upswing in Pennsylvania.
Meuser said paying for older Pennsylvanians' prescription assistance and rent rebates in the future will depend on having a broader customer base for the lottery. "Higher income households, certainly middle income households... 20-somethings and 30-somethings that aren't large players of the lottery," Meuser said. "By getting more people to play a little, the funding can come in to support these important programs that otherwise would be supported via taxes."
Senators have expressed concerns that lottery expansion could eat into profits from tavern gaming and casino gaming. But Jonathan Griffin, a gambling researcher with the National Conference of State Legislatures, pointed to Michigan and Missouri as states that haven't seen casino gambling cannibalize revenues from keno games.
"Kind of indicates there's a built-in player base for keno that is not affected by traditional casinos," Griffin said. "Having a casino doesn't keep people away from playing keno. Keno appeals to a certain customer that is unaffected by casino gaming."
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