Gambling industry revenue in state takes inevitable dip

Pennsylvania collected $1.4 billion in taxes from state-sanctioned gambling last year, making it the nation’s second largest gambling market behind Las Vegas.

That’s the good news.

But those totals also indicate the state may have maxed out its ability to support government through gambling.

The gambling industry last year sustained its first overall decline in revenues since 2006. While the casinos raked in about $700 million from more than 1,000 table games, a 6-percent increase over 2012, slot-machine revenues dipped about 1.4 percent, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

The reasons for the dip are as old as the hills. There are too many gambling opportunities available in too many neighboring states for the revenue to continue rising.

As we said nearly a decade ago, when slot machines were being pushed hard by Gov. Ed Rendell, gambling is not the most reliable source of long-term government funding because the amount of dollars to be spent on it is finite.

At the time, slot revenues were being pushed to replace local school taxes. How did that work out?

To be sure, gambling revenues are a big part of the state budget.

The $1.4 billion in taxes last year supported the state budget, public schools, civil development projects, volunteer firefighters, local governments and the horse racing industry.

But gambling is not a government cure-all and future planning of state budgets should not overproject revenues from a temperamental source of income.