HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania House approved a plan to expand casino-style gambling Thursday, another attempt to to help fix the state's deficit-riddled finances.
The bill is aimed at making gambling legal in Pennsylvania airports, truck stops and on the internet.
The legislation also paves the way for 'mini-casino' sites.
"It was a difficult process but it was ultimately the right decision to make," said State Representative Peter Schweyer.
Schweyer, along with 108 other members of the House, voted in favor of the bill He says he has a lot of concerns but a $5 million allocation for the city of Allentown ultimately made his vote a yes.
"That $5 million in Allentown helps fund our police department, helps fund our fire department and other emergency services," said Schweyer.
State Representative Mike Schlossberg says his yes vote followed similar reasoning.
"Voting no would have left the tax payers of the city of Allentown $5 million short in a $105 million budget," said Schlossberg.
Both lawmakers say they worry the bill could fuel addiction or have a negative impact on established casinos around the state.
"We're just going to undercut our already existing casinos and the brick and mortar investments that go with it," said Schlossberg.
Schweyer and Schlossberg say despite their concerns, the bill would give the local economy a significant boost.
"There is going to be an extra $2 million available in Lehigh and Northampton Counties for economic development," said Schlossberg.
But Berks County-based Penn National Gaming says it's outraged by the bill. The group released a statement saying in part that the bill will have a uniquely punitive impact on its Hollywood Casino in Grantville. The company says it intends to weigh all of its legal options.
Sands Bethlehem did not want to comment on the bill.
If passed, Pennsylvania would become the first state to allow both casino and lottery games online.
Gov. Tom Wolf has not yet said if he backs the bill.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Lehigh Valley Tim Lind / 69 News