State’s gambling revenues need a designated home

In the 2 1/2 months since the Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize sports betting, the state of New Jersey took in $1.1 million from its 8.5 percent tax on gambling.

That came from $153 million spent on bets and $16.5 million lost by gamblers.

Pennsylvania is set to become the sixth state to allow sports betting, with the first betting licenses approved for two casinos in the Philadelphia area last week.

We can almost hear the state’s elected officeholders counting the cash and plotting how they will use it.

Count us skeptical that this will be a budget solution for the state of Pennsylvania.

That doesn’t mean it does not have some positive potential.

The problem is, far too often in Pennsylvania, new money goes into a black hole in Harrisburg with no discernable, resulting, positive, long-term budget impact for the state.

It’s probably too late in the game, but if lawmakers want to prove their pragmatism, they could designate these revenues to solve a particular budget ill in the future.

The state’s pension fund shortfall, which threatens the rest of the state budget if left unchecked, comes immediately to mind.

Pennsylvania’s casinos already rake in more gross revenues than any other state’s casinos except Nevada, with $1.4 billion in tax revenues for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The fact that this huge windfall has had little fundamental effect on the state’s budget illustrates how they are getting swallowed up by increased spending and the lack of designated direction with state funding.

The proliferation of casino gambling – which, by the way, is heavily weighted toward the state’s urban areas – brings with it a variety of potential societal problems.

While those issues fall well within the personal responsibility meter, the money generated from the casinos is everyone’s business.

Or at least it should be.

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