Pennsylvania House passes massive gambling bill

Gov. Wolf isn't saying whether he backs it

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is sending a just-unveiled plan to expand casino-style gambling to truck stops, online portals, airports, and 10 new mini-casino sites to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf.

The chamber approved it 109-72 on Thursday, as lawmakers hope to squeeze a couple hundred million more from license fees and gambling losses to help stitch together Pennsylvania's deficit-riddled finances.

The 970-page bill became public Wednesday evening and is packed with pet provisions for certain casinos or lawmakers. It quickly won Senate approval and House GOP majority leaders support it, although Wolf isn't saying whether he backs it.

Berks County-based Penn National Gaming later said it will be exploring all of its "legal options" if the bill becomes law.

"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 and the jobs it represents," said Eric Schippers, Penn National's senior vice president for public affairs and government relations.

Opponents warn an expansion 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.

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