What the gaming bill would mean for Erie County

Gaming revenue is now in the hands of the governor after the House of Representatives pass a gaming expansion bill.  This is also the final piece needed to create revenue for the state budget.  

This does mark the completion of the budget negotiations, however; not everyone is happy with this expanding gaming bill being the key component. Gaming expansion House Bill 271 heading to the governor's desk. 

This bill, amended by the senate, passing by a vote of 109 to 72.  This also the final piece to create revenue to fund the state budget passed in June.  It's estimated to bring in $238 million to the general fund, however; that's the main reason Representative Pat Harkins voted no, saying that was unrealistic.   "Money that's promised in this legislation, we don't see it being able to come [to] fruition."

Representative Ryan Bizzarro, also voting no, very critical of the bill despite agreeing with parts of it.  His main concern coming from putting video game terminals in truck stops, gas stations and convenience stores selling diesel, possibly taking away from business at Presque Isle Downs and Casino.  "It affects the lottery and programs that have an impact on the most vulnerable. I feel it's going to definitely jeopardize our local share."

The future of the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority widely debated throughout the process however, the organization making the cut.   Harkins telling us, "It's going to be under the microscope."

Representative Bizzarro saying ECGRA is subject to changes, including posting all expenses on their website and funds cannot be used for educational expenses of officers or employees.  

The Executive Director of ECGRA, Perry Wood, happy the bill did not dissolve the organization and says they can continue the work they were established to do.  "I think it's great that we continue to spend gaming dollars on economic development, on blight removal... We do that by supporting the non-profits and economic development projects of this community."

The only Erie County Representative to vote yes was Curt Sonney.  He says the driving force behind his vote was to complete the budget.  "We were faced with two options. You have to have revenue somewhere. You're either going to have to raise taxes on somebody or find revenue somewhere else."

It's still not known when or if the governor will sign the bill.  To learn more about how else this affects Erie County, click here.


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