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September 24, 2021

"It's gaining a lot of traction because of the structural deficit in our budget”

Boscola opposes online gaming but thinks Pennsylvania will approve it

Boscola opposes online gaming but thinks Pennsylvania will approve it
State Sen. Lisa Boscola is still opposed to legalizing online gaming but believes her colleagues may approve it as part of the current budget negotiations.
United States | 06/29/2015

State Sen. Lisa Boscola is still opposed to legalizing online gaming but believes her colleagues may approve it as part of the current budget negotiations.

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egislative committees in recent weeks have been holding hearings on new bills, and Boscola, D-Lehigh/Northampton, believes the interest may be there to legalize online gaming soon.

"It's gaining a lot of traction because of the structural deficit in our budget," she said. "It's not going to be that easy to get passed, but it's got momentum."

Boscola has been a steadfast opponent of online gaming especially because of Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem's resistance to the concept. Sands, which has been lobbying Boscola to oppose online gaming, deserves to be heard because of its significant investment in Bethlehem, Boscola said.

"It's an anchor now for all the development on the South Side – even Bass Pro (Shops) might come because of that anchor," she said. "I know how hard it was to get the Bethlehem Sands here, and because the brick-and-mortar facilities, I have to try to protect it."

Sands Bethlehem declined to comment on the current online gaming proposals. Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson has been an ardent opponent of online gaming and in April commissioned a Pennsylvania poll that showed nearly 75 percent of state residents oppose online gaming.

In addition to the brick-and-mortar casinos' significant investment in Pennsylvania, Boscola said there are other reasons to oppose online gaming.

"It's so much easier to get addicted when you're at your house – when you go to a brick-and-mortar, you have to physically go there and play," she said. "I'm even afraid that students will be doing it at their homes."

If a vote is held in this budget cycle on online gaming, Boscola said she would push to have the proceeds go to further property tax relief instead of the general state coffers.

"We promised the people when we legalized gaming that it would go for property tax relief and only one component of it did, the slots," she said.

But a gaming expert said he doesn't think the current State Senate bill will fly. The bill – SB 900 – includes a 54 percent tax rate, which would be the highest in the nation by far, said Joe Weinert, senior vice president of Spectrum Gaming Group.

"That rate will just not work," he said.

New Jersey, by comparison, taxes online gaming at 15 percent, and revenues there are still falling short, Weinert said.

"With each release of the New Jersey monthly numbers, I think online gambling becomes less appetizing from other states because the revenue numbers in New Jersey are underwhelming," he said.

Still, Pennsylvania may legalize online gaming because the state has been looking at all kinds of ways to expand gambling in the state, including at airports, Weinert said.

"Pennsylvania grew so big so fast, when the revenue rug is pulled out a little bit, there seems to be a strong reaction to make up for the shortfall of expected gambling revenues," he said.

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