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Editorial: Is record casino revenue enough? |

Editorial: Is record casino revenue enough?

| Friday, January 18, 2019 4:42 p.m
A Rivers Casino employee reaches for chips at a roulette table at Rivers Casino on the North Shore on Nov. 17, 2016.

What is $3.2 billion?

It’s $10 for every human being in the United States.

It’s enough to bridge most of the gap between Congress and President Trump on the border wall.

In short, it’s a lot of money. And it’s how much money was made at Pennsylvania casinos in 2018.

Yes, it’s a record. It topped the previous record from 2017 by $21 million, which is, incidentally, about $1.75 more per Pennsylvanian. The state is now second only to Nevada in casino revenue. Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh brought in $76 million last year. Meadows Casino in Washington brought in $35.7 million.

But is the escalation what we need?

Obviously, we want a $3.2 billion industry in Pennsylvania. We want those jobs. We want those paychecks. We want the people who win money at slot machines and table games to turn around and spend their windfalls in local restaurants and stores, buying cars in our dealerships and staying in our hotels. We want that.

There’s a balance, though.

How much money did Pennsylvanians lose to see that revenue? Plenty of people come from surrounding states to play here, but we know plenty of that money is just recirculating from the locals.

We know that since gambling is here now, and gambling is profitable, it’s not going to go away. But how far do we let it go and how fast?

We already started with casinos and slot machines, which led to table games, which led to more casinos, which led to sports betting and online gaming and mini casinos, like the one planned for the Westmoreland Mall.

The space at the mall is available, incidentally, because Bon-Ton closed, as have plenty of other stores in and around area shopping centers.

Why have they closed? Many retailers have learned the lesson that growing too big too fast isn’t sustainable. Even powerhouses like Starbucks and Krispy Kreme — and if anything is as easy to sell as “free” money, it’s sugared up coffee and hot donuts — have closed stores that mushroomed in expansion booms that outpaced what they could handle.

So maybe $3.2 billion isn’t a signpost pushing Pennsylvania to aim for $4 billion or $10 billion or more.

Maybe $3.2 billion is enough to stop and smell the donuts before greenlighting anything else.

Categories: Opinion | Editorials
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