Gambling expansion flourishing in Pennsylvania

PennsylvaniaIf there’s a gambling expansion success story, it’s definitely been going on in Pennsylvania. When slots casinos were legalized seven years ago, the opponents of legalized gambling said it would mean the end of the Pennsylvania Lottery and predicted that it would severely hamper the lottery’s ability to pay for programs to benefit senior citizens.

Although some concerns linger, those concerns haven’t come close to coming to pass. As the 40th anniversary of the Pennsylvania lottery rolls around, the lottery is having one of its most successful years and is setting ticket sales records.

In fiscal 2010-11, the Lottery generated $960 million for senior benefit programs, up 5 percent from the previous year. This was the second-highest year for proceeds going to programs after fiscal 2005-06, the year before the first casinos opened. Lottery ticket sales in fiscal 2010-11 totalled $3.2 billion.

Pennsylvania casinos generated $1.3 billion in slot machine tax revenue that goes for property tax relief and other designated uses in fiscal 2010-11. Lottery officials attribute their good year to a big increase in retail ticket outlets.

So for Pennsylvania at least, gambling expansion hasn’t hurt the state’s lottery business.

“As businesses across Pennsylvania started to grow again last year following the challenges of the recession, the Pennsylvania Lottery succeeded in expanding its retailer base by more than 500 locations last year,” said Drew Svitko, interim executive Lottery director-

Lottery revenue supports a range of programs to benefit senior citizens. Some programs, like property tax and rent rebates and subsidized rides, date to the Lottery’s inception, while others, like prescription drug assistance and funding to help Area Agencies on Aging provide services to help the elderly remain in their homes, were added over the years.

So while opponents of gambling expansion are always quick to throw out wild predictions, Pennsylvania continues to prove them wrong by accomplishing exactly what the state had hoped it would do, which is bring in more revenue for other programs.

“Next year needy senior citizens, the disabled and widows over 50 will receive cash rebates from the state that will pay a portion of their local property tax,” said Gov. Milton Shapp in a special message to lawmakers.