Revenues from state casino gambling have brought funding to local fire departments, water and sewer projects, and property tax relief for homeowners.
Gregory Fajt, of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, outlined for the Williamsport Kiwanis Club Thursday how money from slot machines and table games is distributed.
He traced the short history of the state's legal gambling, from its inception in 2004 to the present.
Gregory Fajt, of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, talks to the Williamsport Kiwanis Club on Thursday about how money from slot machines and table games is distributed.
He noted that gambling originally was considered in the state as means to provide relief to real estate taxes.
But the 11 casinos now operating in the state have gone beyond that.
"We have continued to take business away from New Jersey," he said.
No longer, he said, do state residents have to drive to Atlantic City to play slot machines and table games.
In fact, the state is No. 1 in taxes generated from casinos.
"We are second to Nevada in gross revenues," he said.
Property tax relief has translated to a windfall of $6.2 million for the eight school districts in Lycoming County, Fajt said.
"It averages out to about $200 a household," he said.
The tax relief ranges from $130 per property owner in Loyalsock Township to $311 per property owner in Williamsport.
But many people, he noted, don't realize they are receiving the tax relief because their mortgage payments are applied to escrow accounts.
The county's fire departments, Fajt said, received 47 grants in 2011-12, amounting to $431,640.
In addition, money from slots gambling has provided $18.1 million to county water and sewer projects since January 2009, including a little more than $6 million for the Williamsport Sanitary Authority.
Fajt said the spinoff benefits from gambling cannot be discounted either.
Casinos have created 14,000 jobs for state residents with those jobs paying employees an average annual salary of between $35,000 and $45,000 per year as well as benefits.
Beyond that, "hundreds of millions of dollars" are paid by casinos for various goods and services.
Fajt addressed some of the negative aspects of casino gambling as well.
He noted that the No. 1 complaint officials hear about is smoking by patrons.
Fifty percent of a casino floor is open to smoking under the state's Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008.
Compulsive gambling, he said, is probably the biggest concern of officials.
Fajt conceded that with casinos sprouting up in various parts of the state, gambling is more accessible to people.
Right now, the state spends more than $17 million for outreach and treatment programs.
Regarding fears that casinos generate crime, Fajt said, "I tell people that casinos are the worst places to commit a crime."
Security is tight and everything going on in casinos is recorded.
Fajt, an attorney, was appointed to the Gaming Control Board by state Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, D-Homestead, in 2011.
He formerly served as the board's chairman after being appointed by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2009.