In December, the gaming board plans to decide whether to issue permanent slots licenses to the racetracks, as well as to pick from among 15 casino developers and established resorts that are competing with one another for seven additional slots licenses.A 14th slots license is set aside for whoever wins the state's final harness racing license. Applicants from Lawrence and Beaver counties were rejected by the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission, but a Pennsylvania appeals court said the commission erred in rejecting the bid of Bedford Downs in Mahoning Township. The court upheld the rejection of Valley View Downs in Beaver County. The appeals court decision is being appealed by both the commission and Valley View Downs.Ultimately, Gov. Ed Rendell expects Pennsylvania's slots parlors to pull in $3 billion a year, with most of the state's share to be used to help cut local taxes and boost the state's share of spending on public schools.If his projection proves accurate, Pennsylvania would become the third-biggest commercial gambling state in the nation, behind Nevada and New Jersey and ahead of Mississippi and Indiana, based on 2005 statistics compiled by the American Gaming Association.
Pennsylvania's July 2004 law that legalized slots allows up to 61,000 machines, a number that would make Pennsylvania the second-biggest slots state behind Nevada, not counting Indian casinos.With racetracks in each corner of the state and most near major population areas, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, at least two-thirds of Pennsylvanians will live within an hour's drive of a gambling hall. Pennsylvania's racetrack slots also will be an hour's drive from competing gambling destinations, such as Atlantic City.Pennsylvania's horse breeders and racetrack owners are heralding the arrival of slots as the savior of the state's declining equine industry. With neighboring states using slots to plump up purses at their racetracks, many breeders and bettors have drifted away from Pennsylvania in recent years, industry officials said."It will be the first time in a long period that people will be able to make money in this business in Pennsylvania," said Joe Thomson, a Pennsylvania-based Standardbred breeder who has farms in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Canada--but not Pennsylvania.Many officials in Pennsylvania's racetrack towns also have welcomed the slots as a boon to their bottom lines. Officials in the Bensalem Township have long been slots boosters because they feared losing Philadelphia Park, the biggest employer and taxpayer there.