Berks

Penn National weighing 'legal options' over gaming expansion

Berks-based company: 'We are beyond disappointed'

WYOMISSING, Pa. - A Berks County-based gaming company is threatening legal action against Pennsylvania if the state goes ahead with plans to expand gambling.

Penn National Gaming, headquartered in Wyomissing, said Thursday that it will be weighing all of its "legal options" if the expansion plan becomes law.

That announcement came hours after the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved a bill to expand casino-style gambling to truck stops, online portals, airports and 10 new mini-casino sites, sending the measure to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk. The vote was 109-72.

"We are beyond disappointed by the Legislature's ill-conceived and hasty gaming expansion plan, which will have a uniquely punitive impact on our Hollywood Casino in Grantvillle [Dauphin County] and the jobs it represents," said Eric Schippers, Penn National's senior vice president for public affairs and government relations.

The bill, which became public Wednesday evening, is packed with pet provisions for certain casinos or lawmakers. 

"We will be studying the entirety of the 970 page bill, which many in the Legislature did not have the benefit of prior to voting, and in the meantime will be weighing all of our legal options," Schippers said.

State lawmakers are hoping to squeeze a couple hundred million more dollars from license fees and gambling losses to help stitch together Pennsylvania's deficit-riddled finances.

Berks County state Reps. Jim Cox, Mark Gillen, Jerry Knowles, Ryan Mackenzie, David Maloney, and Mark Rozzi voted against the bill; Reps. Tom Caltagirone and Barry Jozwiak voted in favor.

The governor isn't saying whether he backs it.

Opponents warn it will cause an "explosion" of gambling and that it has numerous unforeseen consequences.

Pennsylvania is already the No. 2 commercial casino state, netting $1.4 billion in taxes from the industry last year.

It would make Pennsylvania the first state to allow both casino and lottery games online.

In addition to its Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Penn National owns, operates, or has ownership interests in gaming and racing facilities in 17 jurisdictions, including California, Nevada, New Jersey, Texas, and Ontario, Canada.


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