Our view: Sports betting would be a winner for Pennsylvania

A board displays odds behind Aracely Geraci in the sports book at the South Point hotel-casino on May 14 in Las Vegas. The U.S. Supreme Court recently gave its go-ahead for states to allow gambling on sports across the nation, striking down a federal law that barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states. - AP Photo | John Locher

It’s time for Pennsylvania to get in the game.

We’re talking about legal sports betting.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban, and now all 50 states are free to join Nevada by licensing sports betting.

Delaware and New Jersey are already allowing casinos to take wagers. Other states will soon follow, trust us.

Yes, we know that technically casinos in Pennsylvania are now able to acquire sports gambling licenses.

But with a $10 million price tag on top of the highest tax on sports betting in the country (34 percent), we don’t expect any here to make the move.

Experts seem to agree, according to a recent USA Today article.

“There is a huge black market that pays zero tax,” Greg Carlin, CEO of Rush Street Gaming, whose company operates the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, told USA Today Sports. “If legal sports betting is going to be a regulated and successful business, the tax rates can’t be so high that it makes it impossible to compete with the black market.”

The price tag needs to come down for the good of everyone.

Let’s face it. A good deal of sports betting is already done in the state, and much of it right here in Luzerne County. You would have to be living under a rock not to realize that.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune, people nationwide place $150 billion in illegal bets each year. And we wouldn’t be surprised to learn illegal gambling in Luzerne County is a multimillion-dollar-a-year business. Can any of us honestly claim that we don’t have at least a few friends who make the occasional bet on a professional sporting event?

S0 why not take all that money out of the hands of illegal bookies and funnel it to our state’s casinos as taxable income?

It would seem foolish not to.

Can a Legislature that is constantly struggling (and mostly failing) to balance a budget turn down such a lucrative revenue stream? Should we allow illegal bookies to continue to reap untaxed profits by the bucket load? Can’t some of this money help finance our struggling school districts, help fix our roads or lessen our dependence on income, sales and real estate taxes?

Even if you don’t believe a gold rush of money will come flowing into the state’s coffers from legalized sports betting, shouldn’t we at least try to keep our casinos competitive with those of neighboring states?

Mohegan Sun Pocono has quietly become one of the biggest employers in our area. Don’t think for a moment that legalized sports betting in neighboring states won’t have an impact on our state’s casinos.

We believe all this points to lowering the licensing fee and reducing the tax to a reasonable level.

New Jersey will take about an 8 percent to 10 percent cut of the money wagered in its casinos. That may or may not be a good starting point for Pennsylvania’s legislators to consider.

Perhaps Pennsylvania could take a bigger cut. But whatever the case, we believe the Legislature needs to act now to get its fair share while still encouraging casinos to participate in this new opportunity.

— Times Leader

A board displays odds behind Aracely Geraci in the sports book at the South Point hotel-casino on May 14 in Las Vegas. The U.S. Supreme Court recently gave its go-ahead for states to allow gambling on sports across the nation, striking down a federal law that barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_120443325-3356adaaecbc49239b5a434d5cfc42d6.jpgA board displays odds behind Aracely Geraci in the sports book at the South Point hotel-casino on May 14 in Las Vegas. The U.S. Supreme Court recently gave its go-ahead for states to allow gambling on sports across the nation, striking down a federal law that barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states. AP Photo | John Locher