Two shot, one dead in Spring Garden Township

Pennsylvanians shouldn't overlook hidden costs of gambling while enjoying revenue windfall

  • Pennsylvania set another annual record for gambling revenue in 2021.
  • More than $4.7 billion came from 16 operating casinos and other facilities.
  • The state enjoyed record tax revenue production from gaming of more than $1.93 billion.
  • Hollywood Casino York, which opened in the York Galleria in August, took in $33,213,414.
Hollywood Casino is shown in Springettsbury Township, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

On the surface, it’s great news for Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Recently, it was reported that our state set another annual record for gambling revenue in 2021, thanks in part to the new Hollywood Casino York.

The more than $4.7 billion came from 16 operating casinos, including three new mini-casinos in 2021, as well as fantasy sports operators and truck stops, according to figures released Thursday by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

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Hollywood Casino York, which opened in the York Galleria in August, took in $33,213,414. Of that, $25,325,143 came from slot machine revenue, $6,850,279 from table games and $1,037,992 from sports wagering.

The all-time high in 2021 also resulted in record tax revenue production from gaming of more than $1.93 billion, according to the Gaming Control Board.

More:Here's how much York's new casino made in 2021

That’s a nice chunk of change in the effort to help keep our state taxes down.

Unfortunately, those encouraging figures are just part of the story.

Gambling comes with a cost: That’s because gambling, without doubt, comes with a cost to society that can sometimes go unnoticed.

There have been empirical studies which report that the impact on society of one additional pathological gambler is more than $9,000 per year.

Increased gambling typically comes with an increase in crime because gambling, by its very nature, favors the house, not the gambler. If you’re problem gambler, you will eventually lose and likely lose big. How do many problem gamblers pay off their debts? By stealing.

Often that theft comes at a cost to local businesses, since embezzling is one way that many problem gamblers attempt to dig themselves out of deep financial holes.

Gambling also normally brings with it additional bankruptcies, stress-related illnesses and suicides.

Social-service agencies, which are often tasked with treating problem gamblers, also see their costs increased.

Then there’s the cost that the family members of problem gamblers must pay. They often see their lives devastated, too.

Counter arguments: Now many folks who enjoy making some friendly wagers will counter that the vast majority of folks who gamble do so responsibly.

For many, gambling is just another form of entertainment, and like most entertainment, there’s a cost involved, no different than going to a show or a sporting event.

They would argue, correctly, that we don’t shut down bars because there are problem drinkers, do we?

Additionally, the pro-gambling crowd would argue that people will find a way to gamble, whether it is legal or not, so we might as well make it legal and then regulate it and tax it.

Again, there’s a certain validity to that argument, although the fear of getting caught and punished undoubtedly kept many from illegal gambling. The easy access and the beautiful new venues also certainly make it more likely that more people will gamble, almost certainly leading to more problem gamblers.

Finally, the gambling industry does produce jobs.

We’re not advocating that the state shut down the legal gambling operations. That ship has already left dock and it’s not coming back.

We would just hope that the state, while rolling in nearly $2 billion in tax revenue from gambling, is doing everything in its power to help the problem gamblers who are suffering tremendous losses — both financially and personally.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board does offer services, information and links to help the addicted gambler. Given the tax windfall from 2021, we’re hoping those services will be increased at a similar rate.

That’s because gambling is not a risk-free venture for the state, the gambler or the taxpayer.