Pennsylvania Governor to Push for Slot Machines

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, at a Jan. 27 news conference, said he was tired of the legislature's inability to pass a gambling bill and was fashioning his own bill to authorize slot machines at 12 locations in the state.

Rendell's plan would allow slot machines at eight racetracks and four other venues, and each would operate initially with 3,000 machines. After one year, a yet-to-be formed Gaming Control Board could approve an increase of 2,000 machines per venue.

The plan calls for 18% of slots revenue to go to purses, and 46% to track owners or owners of the non-track slots parlors.

"The time for talking, the time for individuals to drag their heels and say, 'I want this!' is over," the governor said of holdout lawmakers at the news conference. "We must pass this legislation and we must pass it in February."

Rendell's bill does not include a provision for Indian gaming, because there is already a federal provision in place for Indian tribes to pursue casino ownership, he said. Recently, efforts to pass slots legislation were scuttled by Sen. Vince Fumo, who demanded the Delaware Indians be given at least one license.

Sen. Robert Tomlinson, whose district includes Philadelphia Park, said he is pleased with Rendell's proposal but disappointed that it reduced profits from slots to communities that will host the tracks and casinos. Tomlinson said he would demand 2% of the slots profit for host communities, 1% for the host county, and another 1% towns that surround the host community.

Rendell proposes giving host communities 1% the revenue, and another 1% would go to the state Department of Community Development, where it would be given out in grants to the host community and surrounding area. Rendell also proposes that each of the four non-racetrack gambling venues pay a $75-million license fee.

Philadelphia would get two casinos, Pittsburgh would get one, and the Gaming Control Board would select the fourth location. Each of the eight racetracks would pay a $50-million licensing fee to have slots.

Pennsylvania currently has four operating tracks: Philly Park, Penn National Race Course, The Meadows, and the Downs at Pocono. Tracks planned for Chester and Erie have been licensed but not built, and state regulators are in the process of reviewing more license applications.