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Pennsylvania Legalizes Online Gambling in Bid to Balance Budget

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a package of bills on Monday that is expected to provide $2.3 billion in revenue for the state. Lawmakers in June approved a $32 billion spending plan for the fiscal year, but they could not come to an agreement on how to narrow the state’s $2 billion deficit.

The legislation will boost revenue by expanding gambling and a borrowing plan.

Wolf blamed the Republican party for months of stalling in resolving the budget issue and for the state’s credit downgrade.

“I’m sick and tired of special-interest politicians, self-interest, political games trumping the public interest here in Harrisburg,” said Wolf.

Wolf signed the tobacco-fund loan plan on Monday, which must still be approved by the Commonwealth Financing Authority. Securitizing expected funding from the tobacco industry is expected to generate $1.5 billion in revenue for the state.

The new legislation also makes Pennsylvania the fourth state to allow online gambling, joining New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada. Online gambling through casinos and the Pennsylvania Lottery is now permitted. The law is expected to generate $200 million annually in tax and licensing revenue.

Ten casinos in the state will be permitted to build a satellite casino. The state will also allow video gaming machines at some truck stops and in eight airports, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Wolf did not sign the education bill on his desk, leaving it open for a veto.

“There are a couple of things I’m not real comfortable with,” Wolf said without specifying which provision made him uncomfortable. “I’d like to, I think, go back to the drawing board.”

The education bill includes a provision that would allow districts to lay off teachers based on performance evaluation instead of seniority. The measure is highly opposed by school unions in the state’s major cities.

“It’s really opening the door to a selective and abusive employer practice,” said Jerry Jordan, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president.