Pa. pols jeopardize slots

Nov 23, 2004 4:55 AM

Pennsylvania lawmakers placed the plan to establish 14 slot machine outlets throughout the state in jeopardy Saturday when they passed an amended bill that Gov. Ed Rendell has said he may veto.

The legislative leaders were in hurry to end the session and go home so they went along with amendments that Rendell had warned he could not approve.

These included:

A "dramatically narrowed" ban on politicos and their family members participating in the ownership or maintaining an interest in the gaming establishments, a provision that Rendell said could open the door to corruption.

A provision that permits slots revenue, originally targeted to reduce local property taxes, to be used by the Pennsylvania Lottery if the lottery’s revenues decline due to slots competition.

A provision that permits zoning board appeals relative to the location of these slots venues.

Rendell said he agreed with the aspects of the legislation that would make any violation of the gambling law a violation of the racketeering laws and would broaden the powers of the attorney general.

After weeks of wrangling over the method the state would use to acquire the video lottery machines, House Republicans joined with their Senate counterparts in eliminating the requirement that slot machine manufacturers sell through a Pennsylvania-based distributor. No other state, Senate leaders insisted, require that a middleman be used for the purchase of the machines.

Without Rendell’s approval, it was not known exactly what the next step would be. Originally, it was expected that the newly created gaming commission would meet, hire an executive director and issue licenses for the slots parlors. The commission has yet to set a meeting date.