They’re off for now: Penn racetracks pushing for slots

Aug 6, 2001 11:16 PM
They’re off for now: Penn racetracks pushing for slots From GT Wire Services

Gambling proponents are pushing for slot machines at four horse racing tracks in Pennsylvania.

A dozen industry officials testified at a state legislative hearing in Pittsburgh that the industry is in “crisis” because of cross-border competition from tracks that do offer slots.

Rep. Tom Petrone, D-Allegheny, said he will introduce legislation this fall that would permit Pennsylvania’s four tracks to put as many as 2,000 slot machines at each site.

“Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry employs 35,000 people,” Petrone said. “We are exploring ways to improve and protect it and ensure its viable existence.”

Gambling advocates say the positive economic affects of slot machines at tracks in neighboring states is impossible to ignore.

“Slot machines have fueled a remarkable rejuvenation of tracks in Delaware and West Virginia,” said Thomas Kauffman, director of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association, which represents all four tracks. “Purses are up, attendance is up and tourism is up in the areas around the tracks.”

Still unresolved is whether a statewide referendum will be required for an expansion of legalized gambling, for whether the referendums would be limited to the four counties where the racetracks are located.

Gov. Tom Ridge has insisted on a statewide vote, saying that slot machines will affect more than just the four counties. Petrone said he plans to introduce his bill when the Legislature reconvenes in September.

Mass cold on casinos

Massachusetts leaders reacted coolly to a proposed Indian-run gambling casino in the New Bedford area, saying its economic benefits would not compensate for the problems it would bring.

The Wampanoags, a federally recognized tribe based in Martha’s Vineyard, have put together a high-powered development and lobbying team to build a Foxwoods-style casino, and are being backed by a wealthy tribe from Louisiana, according to a Boston Globe report.

House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran said he is concerned that casino gambling would undercut state lottery revenues.

Senator Mark C. Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat and chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said that area isn’t in the same economic straits it was in four years ago when the casino idea was last promoted.

New Bedford Mayor Frederick Kalisz agreed, saying that a casino would be viewed as an added economic development project and not as a sole source of economic revitalization.

Plain no longer?

Plainfield is now interested in jumping into the casino business in Connecticut.

“The idea of a casino in Plainfield is not far-fetched and shouldn’t be ignored,” First Selectman Paul Sweet said on a local talk radio show. “We need to keep an open mind to it.”

The Nipmuc tribe has reportedly included Plainfield on its list of potential casino sites. Nipmuc has ancestral lands as far south as Plainfield.

The city has plenty of open space off Interstate 395, south of Exit 87. Potential developments along the highway likely would require only an off-ramp and an on-ramp.

“It isn’t a bad thing if it’s put in the right place,” said Sweet, a Democrat.

Benefits include jobs, infrastructure improvements and possibly other revenues.

Republican David Allard, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and Democrat Michael Saad, economic development coordinator, said the town has developable land, but they know nothing of any casino plans.

Nowhere is somewhere

The South Carolina State Supreme Court ruled that gambling “cruises to nowhere” do not violate state law.

State attorney general Charlie Condon said he would ask the court to rehear the case. Condon said the ruling could legalize gambling on every body of water in South Carolina.

Stardancer Casino Inc, which operates day cruises out of an Horry County port, had asked the court to block enforcement of a state law barring gambling.

The company said its slot machines, blackjack, craps and poker tables were legal under a federal law allowing them to conduct business in open waters.

SunCruz case settled

The estate of slain SunCruz Casinos founder Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis has won approval from a federal bankruptcy court in Fort Lauderdale to take control of the Florida’s largest gambling cruise company.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul G. Hyman Jr. authorized a settlement deal between the Boulis estate and Adam Kidan, who bought SunCruz from Boulis last September.

The deal pays Kidan $200,000 for his 35 percent interest in SunCruz and gives the Boulis estate the majority interest in the company.

Dicey situation

A Michigan state senator was among those receiving a warning letter for involvement in an illegal dice game July 23 at a Bay City restaurant.

Joe Gougeon, R-Bay City, received the warning letter after playing in a dice game with four other people. Although gambling is prohibited in bars, authorities didn’t ticket or arrest anyone when the game was broken up.

Police confiscated $5 in cash, dice and a foam cooler from the group, according to a Bay City Times report. The letter also asks the Liquor Control Commission to investigate the incident.

No comps for you

Greektown Casino’s frequent gamblers accustomed to complimentary lunches and rooms will have to go elsewhere according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

The board said that Greektown does not have a license to provide casino services. The firm that owns Greektown, 400 Monroe Associates, was forced to sell its shares in the casino last year before it opened.

Board director Nelson Westerin said that 400 Monroe Associates never applied for a supplier license after being turned down for an exemption.

Cal budget granted

The newly formed California Gambling Control Commission will receive $4.2 million this fiscal year, nearly the $4.7 million it had requested.

The commission’s budget was included in the $103 billion state budget signed July 27 by Gov. Gray Davis. The staff will increase from three to 38 people to oversee the state’s 113 card rooms and 44 American Indian casinos.

There are 107 federally recognized tribes in California, of which 62 have a gambling agreement with the state.

Tribal support

A survey of 1,200 registered voters in California revealed that more than 75 percent of Californians continue to support tribes’ rights to open and operate reservation casinos.

More than half the respondents, 52 percent, said they strongly support tribal gaming rights. Twenty-six percent said they support tribes “somewhat” on the issue.