Slots Revenue on Table at Pennsylvania Hearings

The first of three hearings on slot machines at racetracks in Pennsylvania was held by the Senate Finance Committee April 22. The hearing was highlighted by comments from Sen. Robert Tomlinson, who said he would make some changes to the bill he introduced that has the support of racetrack operators in the state.
Tomlinson, whose district includes Philadelphia Park in Bucks County, said he would accept a 35% state tax on gross slots revenue to meet Gov. Ed Rendell's revenue targets, instead of the 30% proposed in his bill. Tomlinson also said he would eliminate language that would require new racetracks built within 55 miles of existing tracks to conduct live racing for two years before they could operate slot machines.

Rendell said he was concerned the two-year moratorium would hamper the influx of revenue to the state's coffers. But Tomlinson said he wouldn't eliminate the requirement that new tracks conduct at least 100 days of live racing.

While Tomlinson's bill has the support of track owners, who stand to get a 50% share of slots revenue, the measure is opposed by horsemen, who instead are supporting legislation introduced by House Minority Leader William DeWeese. DeWeese's bill offers live racing protection and a 25% share of revenue for purses, breed development, and backstretch health and pension programs.

The Tomlinson bill gives 15% to purses. Another hearing on slots is schedule for April 30 in Harrisburg, and another on May 6. The last, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News, will include testimony from racetrack representatives on how slots will help the horse racing industry.