Hess Votes Against Expanded Gaming Bill
12/17/2009
Citing considerable flaws and ill-conceived public policy, Rep. Dick Hess (R-Bedford/Fulton/Huntingdon) recently voted against Senate Bill 711, which would legalize table games at casinos in Pennsylvania.
 
Under the proposal, slot machine facilities would be permitted to operate up to 250 table games at any one time. Licensees would pay a state tax rate of 14 percent until June 1, 2011, and then 12 percent thereafter. Two additional percent of all daily table game revenues will be directed to local governments, 1 percent to the host municipality and 1 percent to the host county.
 
Hess noted that he is concerned that this legislation opens the door for those addicted to gaming to have easy access to credit and cash, which could have detrimental effects on families throughout Pennsylvania.
 
“Many individuals view gambling as a get-rich-quick scheme,” Hess noted. “The General Assembly should have removed this language from the bill to ensure that there is not an opportunity for citizens to get deeper into debt.”
 
With the addition to table games at casinos, Hess is concerned about how the state’s lottery system would be affected. The Pennsylvania Lottery funds numerous benefits for senior citizens, such as the PACE/PACENET prescription drug program.
 
“We must protect the solvency of the lottery program so that Pennsylvania’s senior citizens do not lose access to beneficial programs and services,” Hess said. “I am concerned that table games will have negative consequences for out lottery system, which will ultimately affect the senior population.”
 
Hess also pointed out that revenue generated by table games would be directed to the Commonwealth’s general fund and not school property tax relief. In 2004, the governor made a commitment to the people of Pennsylvania that gambling proceeds would be used to reduce property tax bills; however, Hess said, the relief has been minimal.
 
As stipulated in Senate Bill 711, in future years, if the state’s Rainy Day Fund reaches $750 million – drained by the 2009-10 state budget – table games proceeds will be deposited into the Property Tax Relief Fund, an action many legislators feel is unlikely.
 
“The most disturbing aspect of this legislation is the fact that none of the taxes collected would be used to offset school property taxes for Pennsylvania homeowners for a number of years,” Hess said. “During the debate on gaming in 2004, the governor promised Pennsylvania homeowners that legalized gambling would be used to lower the school property tax. Unfortunately, he failed to live up to his pledge.
 
“Any bill in the General Assembly that seeks to expand gaming should direct all revenues to school property tax relief,” Hess continued. “These funds should not be squandered to support the governor’s insatiable appetite for out-of-control spending. A promise was made to the citizens of Pennsylvania and the Legislature must ensure this promise is kept.”
 
Hess noted that although he voted against Senate Bill 711, he was pleased to see that state funding will be released to the four state-related universities – Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln. Funding for these institutions was erroneously tied to the table games legislation as part of the 2009-10 budget agreement.
 
Rep. Dick Hess
78th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

(814) 623-9097
(717) 787-7076
Contact: Tim Eller
House Republican Public Relations
teller@pahousegop.com
(717) 260-6242
Member site: DickHess.com
Caucus Site: PAHouseGop.com