Pressure Mounting for Pa. Table Games

Pressure Mounting for Pa. Table Games
Photo: Associated Press
Gov. Ed Rendell

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is putting pressure on legislators to approve table games at slot parlors by threatening to laying off at least 1,000 more government employees, close the State Museum of Pennsylvania and some state parks, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Philly.com

Rendell said during a press conference that the layoffs were imminent if a gambling bill was not on his desk by Jan. 8. Both chambers of the legislature broke for the Christmas holiday without resolving several issues, including adding another resort-casino license to the 14 already authorized by the state and how to distribute gambling revenue in Philadelphia.

“I’m not sure we will ever have a table-games bill,” said Rendell during a Dec. 22 press conference.

The slot bill would generate an estimated $250 million in license fees and taxes but no additional money for horse racing. Still the racing industry is supporting the bill.

“Table games, if passed, may or may not negatively affect slots revenue and reduce purses even further,” the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association said in a legislative alert last fall when Rendell signed the proposed budget. “The PHHA supports the passage of table games legislation because it is good for the overall financial health of state casinos, which in turn helps provide a more stable foundation for us.”

Horsemen are fighting to protect the percent now received from slot machines. State legislators are proposing to reduce the percentage going to the horse industry to help balance the budget. The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association in a memo said the reduction in slots revenue to horse racing is 17%, which means purses will get 10% rather than 12% of gross gaming revenue under the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act.

Rep. Dante Santoni (D–Berks), chief architect of the House table games bill, told the Inquirer that legislative staffers were meeting this week and the House and Senate could resolve their differences when they are back in session Jan. 5.

Of Rendell’s comment, Santoni said: “I’m optimistic, but I do think time is being wasted.”

The gambling expansion would allow games such as blackjack and roulette at slots parlors.

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