PA Lawmakers and Media Figures Stake Out Positions in Gambling Debate

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With Pennsylvania lawmakers getting together to host a hearing regarding an expansion of gambling inside the state this week, including online gaming legislation, it’s worth there is some heavyweight opposition already lining up against the idea.

A joint committee of the Pennsylvania House and Senate hosted a hearing regarding an expansion of gambling inside the state on Tuesday March 7. All indications are that any expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania would likely include the introduction of legal and regulated iGaming.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has said he wants to look at online gambling as a possible answer to the state’s current $3 billion budget deficit.

However, not everyone in Pennsylvania believes online gambling is the right path to take.

Northampton County District Attorney John M. Morganelli penned a guest opinion column for the Lehigh Valley Live website and The Express-Times newspaper in Eastern Pennsylvania this past June simply entitled “Pennsylvania should say no to online gambling.”

Morganelli admitted the idea of online gaming as an easy way to increase government revenue was gaining traction in the state, but warned a debate as to its social impact should be held before “Pennsylvania jumps into this quagmire.”

According to Morganelli, online gambling’s accessibility is dangerous, it lacks the monitoring required to prevent children, problem gamblers, addicts and the mentally impaired from access, and gambling leads people to unhealthy behavior, including crime.

Morganelli specifically points to one 2005 Northampton County case where a Lehigh University student’s online poker addiction reportedly led to him robbing a bank.

Morganelli also claimed online gambling sites are the perfect place for criminals to launder money, ultimately leading him  to the conclusion that “legislative leaders should scrap the idea of online gambling for Pennsylvania.”

On March 5, 2017 lehighvalleylive published an editorial backing him up.

The editorial, entitled “Online gambling won’t cure Pennsylvania’s budget hangover” claims online gambling is “likely to feed gambling addiction, force more people into financial straits and contribute to gambling-related crime,” just as Morganelli previously claimed.

In fact, the editorial goes on to claim that while online gambling may provide a quick fix for the state’s budget woes, the market is likely to flatten and the social costs will remain.

It’s worth noting that the largest casino in the area covered by lehighvalleylive and under the jurisdiction of Morganelli is the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem. Sands owner Sheldon Adelson remains the biggest opponent to online gambling across the United States and the editorial notes he is “leading the opposition” in Pennsylvania as well.

Adelson is behind an effort to restore the Federal Wire Act, which would make it illegal for states to enact separate iGaming legislation.

If Gov. Wolf thought online gambling would be an easy solution to the state’s budget issues he may need to think again, as at least one part of Eastern Pennsylvania appears to be setting up some tough opposition.

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Marty Derbyshire has been covering online gambling for various industry media outlets since 2007.

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