Local lawmakers split on state gambling issue

Local lawmakers are happy that the haggling over the state budget process appears to be finished, even if some of the provisions to fund it don’t have them jumping for joy.

Late this week, a bill to expand gambling passed in the House to bring an additional $200 million or more in revenues and help fill a $2.2 billion spending deficit.

State Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, voted no on the gambling provision.

State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, voted yes.

“I just have a problem in general with gambling,” Wheeland said.

The bill calls for extending casino-style gambling to truck stops, online portals and airports, while also clearing the way for 10 new mini casinos to open in the state.

Wheeland said he especially has a problem with video game technology being allowed in truck stops.

“What makes truck stops any different than Joe’s Bar & Grill?” he asked.

He said he’d rather seen legislation that brings in revenue based on games of skill.

Everett said, “It’s not the gaming bill I would have wanted.”

He said he preferred a bill that expanded video gaming terminals in bars and clubs.

Still, he did vote for the legislation as it now clears the way for revenue funding including for education.

On Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation to authorize some $650 million for five state related institutions — Lincoln, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Temple, as well as the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school.

The good news is it’s (budget process) over,” Everett said. “We can move on to other issues of which there are many.”

Wheeland said he’s glad that the budget calls for no increases in the personal income or sales tax.

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, could not be reached for comment for this story.

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