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Study Highlights Gaming Industry's Impact'

Report gives Pa. gaming a good bill of health but advises policy changes may be needed
A highly anticipated report released by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee confirmed what many policymakers and experts have stated over the last several years, including state Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood: Pennsylvania's gaming industry has been a tremendous success and provides a "huge economic impact" to the commonwealth.

Youngblood, who represents northwest Philadelphia and is the Democratic chairwoman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, said the new report supports gaming's significant contributions to state and local economies, including more than $4 billion in total economic impact and the creation of more than 25,500 jobs.

"It is no secret that legalized gambling in Pennsylvania has been one of the major accomplishments of the Legislature in the 21st century," Youngblood said. "In less than 10 years, we developed an industry from the ground up, built a model for regulatory integrity and reliability, and have since become the second-leading gaming state in the nation. This report provides proof that Pennsylvania has far exceeded expectations."

In addition, Youngblood said the report offers some clarity with regard to the issue of saturation, primarily concerning Pennsylvania's southeast region and the anticipated second casino license for the city of Philadelphia. The report states that although some cannibalization may occur for some existing casinos, the market is not at a tipping point of saturation. And the addition of a second casino in Philadelphia will provide significant increases in gaming revenues and gaming taxes to the state.

"I have been one of the leading proponents in keeping Philadelphia's second casino in Philadelphia because it will mean more good-paying, family-sustaining jobs for workers in our city, and will add significant additional tax revenues for our struggling school district," Youngblood added. "This report proves that the market is not saturated -- and, in fact, shows that the additional casino will help to bring in an additional $300 million in economic impact. That is a significant chunk of money that we cannot afford to let slip away."

Youngblood also stated that the LB&FC report provided insight as to some regulatory and policy changes the state could make to secure Pennsylvania's already successful gaming industry. One avenue explored was the introduction of Internet gaming, or iGaming, into the state's gaming product. The study said iGaming could provide $300 million in gross revenues, or nearly $110 million a year in taxes to the state.

"I hosted a policy hearing last week on iGaming, and the overall sentiment was that legalizing and regulating the industry would generate significant revenues for the state, while also providing much-needed consumer protections against fraud, underage gambling and problem gambling," Youngblood added. "We are facing significant budget deficits, and we can no longer cut programs that impact the most vulnerable citizens. We must look at other revenue generators, like iGaming and Marcellus Shale severance taxes, if we truly want to address our budget issues. This report is proof that iGaming will generate significant revenue and offer consumer protections, while not impacting the land-based casinos currently operating in the state. "
Youngblood acknowledged that Pennsylvania's gaming industry is not 100 percent immune to problems, and the report released yesterday provides some warnings to policymakers regarding the future of the industry.

Recent revenue declines over the last year should be cause for concern, especially as other states in the Mid-Atlantic region expand their casino operations, the report stated. But, according to the study, the revenue declines do not foretell a significant downturn in the industry's performance, and the experts do not foresee Pennsylvania becoming another Atlantic City.

"With competition literally surrounding us from all sides – Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Delaware – we need to keep Pennsylvania relevant and modern when it comes to gaming," Youngblood said. "The prediction is that Pennsylvania could see a 5- to 10-percent dip in revenue over the next few years, but that is expected as the industry settles in and all casino licenses are awarded. If we remain open to new ideas and new technologies, and include all stakeholders in the development of new policies, Pennsylvania will continue to see the benefits of a regulated and legal gaming industry."

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