Pennsylvania Senate Approves Racetrack Slots Bill

The Pennsylvania Senate, on a 27-22 vote the evening of June 25, approved legislation to authorize racetrack slot machines. Now, the measure goes to the House of Representatives.

Gov. Ed Rendell has pushed for racetrack slots, and in fact made it part of his campaign for governor last year. If approved, the measure is expected to raise about $300 million for the state.

The horse racing industry--Thoroughbred and Standardbred--would benefit as well. Racetracks would get 46% of gross revenue from slot machines, and horsemen and breeders a combined 18%. The tracks, which would provide the infrastructure for the machines, would have to pay a $50-million license fee at the outset.

There currently are four operating tracks in Pennsylvania: Penn National Race Course and Philadelphia Park, the Downs at Pocono and The Meadows. Licenses have been granted for a Thoroughbred track in Erie and a harness track in Chester. Numerous applications have been submitted for the remaining two licenses in the state.

The Senate bill authorizes 3,000 slot machines to begin with at each track.

"We have a tough bill, a good bill that makes sure this is a clean operation and that good people are involved with it," Sen. Robert Tomlinson, the bill's sponsor, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Tomlinson's district includes Philly Park.

The Inquirer reported House leaders believe proposals to add slot machines at other locations, as well as riverboat gambling and land-based casino operations, would reduce the chances of passage in the House. Tomlinson has said he doubted the Senate would approve a bill that called for additional forms of gambling, the newspaper reported.