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January 24, 2016

Official Pennsylvania Lottery Logo with Tagline (PD)

State legislation in 2004 authorized gambling in Pennsylvania. During the first three months after Pennsylvania casinos opened, gamblers bet $1.06 billion. They lost 90.6% of that.

Legalized gambling is often put forward as a valid strategy for economic development [1]. During hearings in 1994 before the US House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, however, experts testified that casino-style gambling impacts negatively on the criminal justice system, social welfare system, small businesses, and overall economy of a region.

Though the gaming industry routinely promises painless tax revenue [2], for every tax dollar contributed across the nation by legalized gambling, at least three dollars of taxpayer support are required by way of infrastructure and regulatory costs. Philadelphia projected its own increased policing costs at $11-$16 million.

Gambling, also, acts as a regressive tax on the poor. In the forlorn hope of a jackpot that will change their lives, the disadvantaged tend to gamble proportionately greater amounts of their income than their well-off neighbors – particularly on state lotteries. This translates to less money for rent and groceries.

The poor see no viable alternatives, all the while falling further behind.

There were 900 jobs projected for a single Philadelphia casino (some paying substantially more than minimum wage). Though figures varied, funds were, also, under discussion for redevelopment.

All this was an enormous enticement, yet still neighborhoods banded together to protest the location of casinos. Not that the gaming industry took much notice. One Philadelphia site under consideration was situated directly across from a government housing project.

Donald Trump, now running for President, led a group of investors favoring the housing project site. Thankfully, he lost his bid for an operating license.

Though Trump did miss out on an investment opportunity, a greater opportunity than casinos was right before his eyes. In fact, it remains there to this day – awaiting a truly great man or woman.

Not the opportunity to make a financial killing or construct another monument to ego. But the chance to improve the squalid living conditions of thousands of Philadelphia residents and their children. The chance to make a mark that would outlast brick and mortar, outshine glass and steel.

Until someone takes up that cause, we will continue gambling with lives.

[1] We Meant Well, “Casinos Fail Old Industrial Towns” by Peter Van Buren,  7/14/15,

[2] Penn Live, “Casino Revenue Has Not Provided Level of Tax Relief Promised to PA Property Owners” by Associated Press, 9/14/14,


  1. Good post Anna. I remember when the talk of the lottery first came up in Arkansas. At the time, I had no moral issue with it, but I remember being opposed to it, for many of the reasons you just listed there. Because I drive around a lot working, I go in a lot of Convenience stores. All day long I see people buying lottery tickets that simply don’t need to be wasting that money. Sad.

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