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Despite misgivings about increasing crime and gambling addiction, the state’s move to legalize gaming in 2004 has not only resulted in enough revenue to aid communities across the commonwealth in combating those ills, but has also provided tax relief for homeowners, economic development in distressed communities, and thousands of jobs.

Those are just some of the benefits Pennsylvania Gaming Commissioner Richard Jewell touched on during a presentation to the African American Chamber of Commerce during its Oct. 20 PowerBreakfast meeting at the Rivers Club.

The state can do that, he said, because gaming generated $3.2 billion last year.

“We are number two in the country behind Nevada, which had $12 billion,” he said. “But we are number one in tax revenue. And last year that meant $780 million in property tax relief, $255 million for the horse racing industry, $155 million paid to local governments where the casinos are located, $120 million in economic development, $90 million for the general fund in Harrisburg, and $32 million for county fairs and grants to fire companies.”

Jewell noted that this was being done despite competition for gaming dollars in every surrounding state. And those dollars have generated jobs for more than 17,000 people, 89 percent of them Pennsylvanians.

“And these jobs—with wages, insurance and benefits—have been a boon to some communities,” he said. “I have letters people sent us from Fishtown (a formerly depressed Philadelphia neighborhood where the Sugarhouse Casino now stands), thanking us for jobs that have stabilized families.”

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