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Editorial: Parx ups the ante with sports betting

edit:casino time:2019-01-10

In July 2004, then-Gov. Ed Rendell came to Philadelphia Park in Bensalem and signed a law authorizing 61,000 slot machines in Pennsylvania to generate revenue for tax relief and to prop up the state's flagging horse-racing industry. Detractors gloomily predicted that slots would be just the beginning.

In the 15 years that followed, the slots parlor at Philadelphia Park thoroughbred track has added table games, bars, restaurants, a hotel, a concert venue and a fancy new name — Parx Casino. And at 1 p.m. Thursday, as if those detractors needed any more told-you-so ammunition, sports betting comes to Parx.

Pennsylvania has been aggressively expanding gambling in the commonwealth. The law that approved sports betting also allows for 10 new mini-casinos, slot-style games at truck stops and online casino-style gambling. Parx has applied to offer online gambling and has set the stage with Parx Online, where users can already wager credits on their desktops, smartphones or tablets, though those credits can't be redeemed for cash. It also has a sports betting app that's pending state gaming control board approval.

There's no denying that the state will make money from the expansion of gambling.

In November, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course became the first Pennsylvania casino to launch sports wagering. The casino, located about 15 miles from Harrisburg, earned $509,000 in revenue in its first two weeks. The 34 percent state tax on that revenue came to more than $173,000, according to data the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released in mid-December.

In discussing Parx's sports betting operation, State Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, who spearheaded the effort to bring gambling to Pennsylvania in the early 2000s, said sports betting will also generate harder-to-track revenue that comes from people who visit the casino to bet on a game and wind up hitting the slots or a poker table before they leave.

In his testimony during a public hearing in October before a committee that looked at authorizing sports betting in the District of Columbia, Keith S. Whyte, of the National Council on Problem Gambling, said trends surrounding legalized sports gambling were creating a "Frankenstein's monster of advertising, access and action" that would increase gambling and gambling problems.

We believe he's right about that, particularly when sports betting and online betting intersect. Unlike slot machines and blackjack tables, professional sports is everywhere and we can see how being able to place a bet immediately on our smartphones can lead to trouble for some gamblers.

Say a sports fan is listening to a sports talk show on the radio and the host suggests a game's line is signaling something. A listener can impulsively whip out his or her phone and place a wager without a second thought.

It seems logical to us that a shopaholic can do more damage to his or her finances by cruising Amazon, Etsy and eBay than by sticking to brick-and-mortar stores. That's because it's infinitely easier to click a few buttons on a smartphone wherever you are and at any time of the day or night than it is to drive to a store when it's open, see if it has the item, make the purchase and transport the item home.

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