Gambling at bars a double-edged measure for state

When state government needs money, concessions are made.

The latest concession will allow small games of chance in thousands of bars in Pennsylvania.

The bill allowing the gambling expansion passed in House two weeks ago, the Senate last week and is expected to be signed by Gov. Tom Corbett, despite the administration’s concerns about the expansion’s impact on the Lottery games.

Those concerns appear to be offset by money. Corbett’s office has estimated the gross profits from the gambling will be $260 million a year and $150 million of that will go to the state.

Another 5 percent of the revenue, about $13 million annually, will go to the municipality where the bar is located.

The rest of the revenue will go to the state’s bar owners.

That’s fine for the 4,500 bars and taverns where the pull-tab games, daily drawings and tavern raffles will be held.

Our concerns are two-fold.

First, there is the matter of how much revenue will be lost from the coffers of the Pennsylvania Lottery programs, where the revenues benefit the elderly.

Then there is the matter of how much revenue will be lost by other entities that have benefitted from games of chance for a long time.

VFW posts, American Legion halls, volunteer firefighting squads and Moose and Elks lodges have been raising revenues from games similar to those approved for the bars for three decades.

As we’ve said so often, there is a finite amount of money that may be spent by residents on gambling.

When the portfolio of the state’s gambling outlets and products is expanded, the amount of benefit to each entity in the gambling fold is compromised.

And we will always be concerned when state governments have such a heavy dependence on gambling revenues for their budgets.

So this is a good deal for the bars, but don’t believe for a second that it’s the best deal for everyone else impacted.