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Trib editorial: Gambling on Pennsylvania's future

| Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, 9:48 a.m.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has approved legislation authorizing a major expansion of gambling in what is already the nation's second-largest commercial casino state. (AP Photo | Matt Rourke)
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has approved legislation authorizing a major expansion of gambling in what is already the nation's second-largest commercial casino state. (AP Photo | Matt Rourke)

It came at night without public review or input. Then about 470 pages of gambling legislation sailed through Pennsylvania's legislative chambers in just 18 hours, ultimately to be signed into law on Monday by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Lawmakers anxious to exit the capital for the upcoming elections accomplished in just a few days what they had been unable to finish in four months: a revenue package totaling more than 900 pages that few, if any, even bothered to read.

What we know is that this mishmash will allow gambling parlors at airports and truck stops along with new mini-casinos. It's what we don't know that's most troubling.

Reportedly the bill is packed with pet provisions for certain casinos and lawmakers. Specific details that should have been publicly reviewed and debated instead got treated as incidentals. Never mind the inevitable economic toll on Pennsylvanians: When it comes to gambling, the “house” ultimately wins.

Along with supposed better living through expanded gambling, this putrid budget fix includes borrowing $1.5 billion (details to come) to shore up state spending. Using long-term debt to pay off current costs is fiscal malpractice.

Yet contained therein is no meaningful reduction in what dug Pennsylvania's $2.2 billion fiscal hole in the first place: spending beyond the state's means. The expanded gambling and borrowing simply perpetuate the status quo.

What the state's leaders cobbled together posthaste is a sucker bet. And for that disregard Pennsylvanians will pay dearly.

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