Better bet on transparency
The Corbett administration is moving to ensure that Pennsylvanians have more access to gambling than they do to public information about gambling.
Last week the governor said that expanding the $3.5 billion state lottery to include keno and online games is one of the best ways to produce more revenue to fund the state's roster of services for the elderly.
He apparently isn't confident enough in that, however, to include the public in the process.
The administration has declined to identify the companies with which it is discussing private management of the lottery, which is managed now by the state Department of Revenue. Other states that have converted to private management, however, have identified the companies that have sought the business.
The administration also has said it has the unilateral authority to vastly expand access to gambling with online games - a notion with which the Republican-controlled state Senate quite rightly disagrees.
Regardless of whether the administration technically has the legal authority to introduce online gambling, it lacks the moral authority to do so. Such a vast expansion of gambling should be examined closely by the Legislature, including through public hearings, to ensure not simply that online gambling will produce revenue but to ensure that it's the right thing as a matter of public policy.
Politicians love gambling because it enables them to say that they have increased revenue without imposing a general tax increase. But there is abundant evidence that the state's gambling revenue, from casinos and the lottery, comes disproportionately from lower-income individuals, making gambling primarily a tax on the poor. And lawmakers who think more gambling is the answer to every problem also fail to consider the costly social dysfunction that gambling fosters.
The gambling expansion envisioned by the governor might well be inevitable. But the process should be transparent so that Pennsylvanians can follow that dubious path with their eyes open.