Sen. Vincent J. Fumo

District Office

1208 Tasker Street
Phila, PA 19148

Harrisburg Office

545 Main Capitol
Hbg, PA 17120



_____________________NEWS RELEASE

State Senator

1st Senatorial District
Democratic Appropriations Committee Chairman
Room 545 Main Capitol, Harrisburg PA 17120
Internet Website:


PHONE: 717-787-5662 


     HARRISBURG, July 13 2007 – Fulfilling a commitment he made to community group leaders at a meeting of the Delaware River Neighborhood Alliance (DRNA) on June 13, state Senator Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia) has introduced legislation that would ban casinos within 1,500 feet of residential areas, schools and churches in the city.

     The provision is contained in two separate but identical pieces of legislation – one bill that would apply to a geographic area that includes the proposed Foxwoods casino site and another to an area that includes the proposed Sugarhouse location. Together the bills would establish the 1,500-foot buffer zone citywide.

     “I believe this legislation has virtually no chance of passing either the House or Senate, and I told that to the community groups when I met with them,” Fumo said.

     “Nevertheless, I promised them that I would introduce the legislation prior to the legislature’s summer recess if they requested it, so today I have done that. I have a widely acknowledged 29-year record for keeping my word as a public official, even when it is difficult for me to do so, and that isn’t going to change now,” he added.

     As Fumo explained to the community representatives at the meeting, a 1,500-foot buffer zone creates significant problems that loom as major obstacles to passage of such legislation. Act 71 legalizing slot machine gambling in the state required two venues to be located within the state’s largest city, mainly to maximize revenue.

     “The bill’s inherent flaw is the arbitrary nature of the 1,500-foot barrier. It has the effect of precluding any commercially viable casino site in the city. As a consequence, the city would lose out on $800 million for a major expansion of the convention center, more than $20 million annually for the general fund budget that city council has already included in its five-year plan, $5 million annually for the school district, reduction of the city’s wage tax, and thousands of new casino-related jobs and businesses,” Fumo said.

     “Instead of focusing on a bill that has no chance of passing, I would prefer that Philadelphia’s river-front neighborhoods engage in a dialogue with casino developers to ensure that such development occurs in a manner that protects surrounding communities,” he added. “We all should be addressing problems such as traffic congestion, noise, nuisance behavior, and so on right now.”

     Fumo has received feedback from many people in the northern end of his senatorial district, near the proposed Sugarhouse casino, since the June 13 meeting. Residents and several neighborhood organizations have told him they support the Sugarhouse project, even while others oppose it.

     That division of opinion is the reason that Fumo has introduced two separate bills instead of one. If, at some point in the future, it becomes clear to him that the sentiment of one community is in favor of allowing a casino to proceed, Fumo said he would withdraw the bill that applies to that section of the city.

     “At the June 13 meeting, I had heard from leaders of community groups who feel strongly that they do not want the Foxwoods or Sugarhouse casinos near their homes. Over the past several weeks, however, I personally have met with neighbors who vehemently oppose the legislation that I am introducing today. In retrospect, perhaps I should not have made a blanket promise to introduce the 1,500-foot buffer zone for the entire city. But I made the commitment and am honoring it now,” Fumo said.

     “At the same time, as I introduce these bills, I am making a commitment that if the communities near either casino decide they favor that development, I will recall the piece of legislation that would affect that region,” he said.

     Pursuant to long-standing, but seldom used custom of the Senate of Pennsylvania, Fumo introduced the legislation “by request” of the DRNA. That designation on a bill indicates that the sponsor of the legislation was introducing it to satisfy the request of certain constituents. There is no legal or legislative consequence to this designation
     In requesting the legislation, the DRNA did so on its own behalf and was not acting for any other organization. The group made that clear in a letter to Fumo, which said in part:

     “We recognize there are groups in the City who officially take an anti-casino position; however, as you know, we are not one of those groups. At this time, our sole focus is to have these two casinos relocated to areas more protective of residential neighborhoods, consistent with a 1,500-foot buffer. In addition, the DRNA and no one else speaks for the DRNA.”

     In promising Senate legislation for a 1,500-foot buffer zone, which replicates a proposal already introduced in the House by Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia,) Fumo offered no pretense that it would pass, but rather told the community group leaders that odds against it were overwhelming.

     In response to a question at the June 13 meeting about whether he would, at their request, introduce the bill, Fumo said:

     “I’ll put it in. Do you think anybody is going to vote for it? Let’s be honest. I don’t know that other Senators and House members from Philadelphia will vote for it. The ones along the waterfront will, because it affects you. But there are people in this city who want the one percent reduction in the wage tax. There are people in this city who want the jobs from the casinos. There are people in this city who want to go to the casinos.”

     In response to another question at the meeting, again urging him to introduce the bill, Fumo reiterated that he would do so, then he added:

     “But I’m also not going to lie to you. I’m not going to tell you it’s going to pass. I’m not going to tell you it’s going to get out of committee.”

     Fumo also pointed to two House members who attended the meeting. Noting that the House has a Democratic majority, unlike the Senate where Fumo sits in the minority, he observed that they have not been able to move Rep. Josephs’ bill out of committee there, either.

     By eliminating almost all commercially viable sites in the city, the legislation would deny the state the gambling revenue from Philadelphia, which reliable estimates peg at about 25 percent of the statewide total. With Pennsylvania depending upon slots revenue for statewide school property tax cuts as well as Philadelphia’s wage tax cuts, for economic development money, and for bolstering the state’s horse racing industry, it is extremely unlikely that the state legislature will do anything to forego the significant percentage of slots income that Philadelphia’s two casinos will produce.

     Fumo asked attendees at the meeting to identify other sights within the city that would meet the 1,500-foot buffer zone criteria, but received no commercially viable suggestions.

     “I am sensitive to the very legitimate concerns of the people who live in the neighborhoods where the casinos are to be built, and I want to help solve their problems. I also have a responsibility to all of my constituents, and that includes those who are counting on casinos for wage tax cuts and jobs,” Fumo said.

     Fumo feels an additional obligation to people who oppose a casino at both locations, to be honest with them and to fight for their interests in the most effective way possible. It is highly probable that once the legislative and judicial processes have run their course, casinos are coming to the two sights already chosen by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Therefore, he believes their best course of action is to negotiate an agreement with the casinos as soon as possible to mitigate the adverse impact that gambling halls might have on their neighborhoods.

     The bill pertaining to the areas near Foxwoods is SB 1031; the one pertaining to the Sugarhouse site is SB 1032.

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