By Senators Scott Martin and Ryan P. Aument
Legalized gambling can permanently change the character and culture of a community. For that reason, every municipality should have the right to refuse to host any kind of expanded gambling activity.
When lawmakers voted in 2017 to expand gambling throughout the state, they gave every community the ability to opt out of having a new mini-casino created within their borders. Here in Lancaster County, every single municipality passed a resolution to prohibit a new gaming venue from being established here.
It was a strong statement that showed the entire county standing in solidarity against new gambling venues. And yet, the law still permitted some gambling activities to creep into Lancaster County in the form of video gaming terminals – or VGTs – in truck stops. Unlike mini-casinos, VGTs were allowed to be placed here without the consent of the municipalities that would host these new gambling venues.
As a result, two municipalities in Lancaster County are already embroiled in lawsuits regarding VGTs. More could follow. This not only means that Lancaster County municipalities are being forced to host gambling activities they do not want, but are also being forced to pay for the resulting legal bills with the tax dollars of hardworking county residents.
This troubling situation does not serve the interests of anyone except for the people who profit from gambling. It certainly does not serve the interests of municipalities and the people they represent.
That is why we have introduced legislation that would give municipalities the ability to opt-out of allowing VGTs by passing a resolution to that effect. The bill would restore the principle of local control over the expansion of gambling.
The process for a municipality to prohibit expanding gaming is not new; in fact, it is the exact same procedure that was put in place regarding the creation of mini-casinos. We are not trying to break new ground with this bill. We only want to give our municipalities a voice in the debate over legalized gambling.
Thankfully, this legislation is already gaining traction in the General Assembly. The Senate Local Government Committee recently approved our bill, and it is hoped that the legislation will receive a vote by the full Senate in the weeks or months ahead.
The people of Lancaster County deserve to have a say in whether our communities will remain free from the powerful reach of gambling interests. We will keep fighting to make that goal a reality.