Inquirer Editorial: Don't need another casino

Posted: September 26, 2011

It would be better news if state officials had announced a commitment to stop relying on gambling to fund Pennsylvania's needs.

But at least Philadelphia residents can gain some satisfaction from state Treasurer Rob McCord's assessment that this town should not host the next big casino.

After surveying the most lucrative sites for yet another casino, McCord concluded that Philadelphia probably would not raise the most money for the state treasury. Both the York and Reading areas would bring in more revenue, McCord reported in a ranking of 11 potential casino sites.

McCord's study also showed that state taxes and license fees brought in more than $5 billion since late 2006, when the first casino opened.

McCord's study makes it clear that state officials should take their games of chance and associated social costs somewhere other than Philadelphia.

That certainly would be best from the perspective of a city struggling under a staggering poverty burden. New census figures show Philadelphia's poverty rate jumped 2 percentage points between 2009 and 2010.

With more than one in four Philadelphians living in poverty, the last thing the city needs is another place where people can squander the rent money on gambling.

State gaming officials had awarded a license for a second casino along the Delaware River, but they revoked permission late last year to build the long-delayed Foxwoods Casino. Although that decision is under court challenge, the site of another Philadelphia gambling hall, with table games and hundreds more slot machines, remains up in the air.

The license originally was reserved for a Philadelphia location, but gaming officials could take steps to move it to somewhere else in the state. And they should.

Better yet, they should heed McCord's warning that competition from other states - and among casinos within the state - threatens to slow the giddy increases in gambling revenues.

The proposed expansion of the city's SugarHouse Casino will ramp up the scramble for customers with nearby Parx in Bucks County. A smaller betting parlor is due to open in Valley Forge, and Chester hosts a fourth area casino.

Fears of market saturation among would-be Wall Street investors appear to have played a role in Foxwoods' being unable to deal itself a winning hand on the Delaware. Sooner or later, casino gambling will prove to be a bust for the entire Keystone State.

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