The two slots parlors planned for Philadelphia haven't even been built, yet State Rep. Bill DeWeese (D., Greene) continues to make his annual push to expand gambling in the state to include blackjack, poker, roulette, and other table games.
Recall that state lawmakers - led by Gov. Rendell - rammed through the legalization of slots gambling in 2004 as a way to support horse racing. Now, DeWeese and friends seem determined to dot Pennsylvania with clones of Atlantic City.
From the start, DeWeese has been leading the effort. He began talking up table games in early 2005. In 2006, DeWeese introduced legislation to legalize poker and blackjack in the slots parlors. When that failed, DeWeese tried again in 2007, and again in 2008.
Now, like a gambling addict jonesing for another roll of the dice, DeWeese is back at the table again. He says his latest bill to expand gambling could bring in an additional $200 million to $300 million in tax revenue for the state, on top of the more than $1 billion in revenue from slots alone.
While the projected revenue may seem too good to refuse for Harrisburg, gambling doesn't generate much in the way of new spending for the overall economy.
The money gamblers pump into slot machines would likely be spent on other business and entertainment, including restaurants, movies, and sporting events. Or on basics like food, clothes, and heating bills, which some elderly and problem gamblers forgo to chance hitting it big.
Sure, some of the state's gaming proceeds come from residents who otherwise would travel to Atlantic City. But by putting a slots parlor practically near every doorstep, Rendell & Co. are making it easier to grow the number of problem gamblers in the state.
Turning the slots parlors into full-fledged casinos will only compound social problems. The issue will become especially acute in Philadelphia, which has many elderly, poor, and uneducated residents who can't afford to gamble but will be attracted by the proximity of the gaming halls.
Taxpayers who don't gamble will be forced to pay for all the problems that come with legalized gambling - increased crime, including prostitution, drug abuse, and financial ruin.
Another argument against the expansion of gambling is that the state law allowing it remains riddled with holes that need fixing.
Slots licenses have already been awarded to two felons. One of them, Louis DeNaples, was later indicted for allegedly lying about his mob ties.
Those charges were later dropped, and in return DeNaples' role in his slots parlor was curtailed. But only briefly. He's back as an adviser to its management.
Legislation has been introduced that would address many of the problems with the existing gaming law. Those amendments should be adopted before lawmakers even think about turning slots parlors into full-blown casinos.