Penn. slots get boosts

May 14, 2002 7:10 AM

Some four years ago, there was a major move to get legislative approval to place slot machines at the Pennsylvania racetracks. Opposition, fueled by Atlantic City casino money, was successful in killing the plan.

That was then, and this is now.

Last week, a prominent Democrat said he is introducing a bill that would authorize up to 2,000 slot machines at each of the state’s four horse tracks. Beneficiaries would be Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN) with its two tracks; Philadelphia Park, operated by Greenwood Racing Inc., and The Meadows, the trotting track purchased late last year by Magna Entertainment Corp. (MIEC).

Giving credence to the plan has been the support being generated among gubernatorial candidates. Past slots efforts were stymied by former Gov. Tom Ridge (now national security director) and current Gov. Mark Schweiker. But, come the new year, Schweiker will be replaced by one of three candidates: Democrats Ed Rendell and Bob Casey, and Republican Mike Fisher.

So far, Fisher is on record as favoring the move while Rendell, former mayor of Philadelphia, is strongly enthusiastic. In fact, he has developed a plan to use the estimated $1 billion in revenue for education. Casey has been reluctant to back the plan fully but has said he would go along if the legislature approves.