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Politics & Government

Senate GOP Seeks Online Gambling To Generate Cash

State Senate Republicans want to tweak casino rules and legalize online gambling this year to help ease the commonwealth's fiscal woes.

A forthcoming proposal would allow round-the-clock alcohol sales in casinos and let certain casinos put slot machines miles away from their main premises. The big change, however, would be letting existing casinos offer online gambling. A report last year found the state could generate more than $100 million in tax and fee revenue from Internet gambling alone.

"There's definitely a competitive aspect to it," said Casey Long, a policy staffer for Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, one of the sponsors of the gambling measure. "Two of our neighboring states, New Jersey and Delaware, have implemented online gaming, and I think that it's important that Pennsylvania keep up with what other states are doing in the gaming industry."

"It's certainly preferable to any sort of tax increase that the governor may be proposing that this time," Long added.

Lawmakers have repeatedly looked to gambling expansions to plug budget holes. In 2013, they legalized tavern gambling, but the move failed to bring in estimated revenues when taverns were slow to sign up for licenses. Slot machine gambling was legalized in 2004 to reduce property taxes.