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, October 18, 2006 – The state Senate plans to amend and send back to the House of Representatives next week legislation that will strengthen the ethics provisions of state gaming law, and give control of casino zoning matters to local authorities in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

     State Sen. Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia), who had originally preferred to vest control over casino zoning with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, said he would drop his insistence on state preemption of zoning due to strong community opposition to the concept. City councilmen Frank DiCicco and James Kenney have worked closely with Fumo in an attempt to address local concerns about zoning issues.

     “Residents of neighborhoods that are near the potential casino sites have raised some very legitimate concerns about the impact on their communities,” Fumo said. “I also had legitimate concerns about how local zoning ordinances might be used unfairly to place unnecessary obstructions in the way of casinos.

     “But because of the strong community opposition, I am willing to try local control. I will be watching very closely and will ask the legislature to revisit the issue, however, if local zoning procedures become simply a tool for delaying or preventing the building of casinos,” Fumo added.

     The Senate could vote on the legislation (SB 862) when it returns to session on Monday.

     Fumo, who was one of the main authors of the 2004 law that legalized 14 slot machine parlors statewide, was always concerned that NIMBY (Not-In-My-Back-Yard) opponents would use local zoning regulations to place roadblocks in the way of the two casinos that the law requires to be licensed in Philadelphia.

     He believes that while the state must proceed carefully with gambling to ensure that it is corruption-free and that it does not adversely affect nearby neighborhoods, it is also important that slot machine parlors open for business quickly. The state will apply its share of the slots revenue to statewide property tax reduction and to Philadelphia wage tax reduction.

     The city of Philadelphia is also to receive four percent of the revenue generated by the two casinos within its borders – an amount that should total approximately $24 million annually. Of that, at Fumo’s insistence, the school district is to receive $5 million per year under this legislation. The district will use that money for bond financing to pay for up to $75 million in school renovations.

     “Using gambling revenue to reduce taxes was a key part of Governor Ed Rendell’s agenda. I want to move forward so that we can begin cutting the Philadelphia wage tax and provide other benefits to the city and its schools,” Fumo said.

     This will be Fumo’s second attempt within the past several weeks to balance local concerns with state interests. Earlier this year, the House had amended Senate Bill 862 to preempt Philadelphia zoning ordinances completely. Fumo helped craft a bipartisan series of amendments to SB 862 which restored a degree of control to the city by including a requirement that the state Gaming Control Board follow many current Philadelphia zoning ordinances when licensing and regulating casinos. That version passed the Senate on a 50-0 vote on September 27.

     Yesterday, the House amended the bill again to remove the standards set forth in the Senate-passed version and to authorize the state Gaming Control Board to make all zoning and land-use decisions regarding casinos in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

     The House had also made other detrimental changes, including:

• Weakening the Senate-backed rules on ex-parte communication by Board members and employees;

• Weakening a strict standard for Board members to recuse themselves from decisions in which they have a conflict of interest;

• Weakening the public input hearing provisions;

• Removing a prohibition on racetracks providing free drinks;

• Removing the anti-monopoly protections against one machine manufacturer having more than 50 percent of the machines on the floor of any one casino;

(These and other changes are described in greater detail in the attachment.)

     Next week, the Senate expects to remove the House-passed language and reinsert the provisions that it had passed on September 27, with several changes. In addition to restoring zoning control to local authorities in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the new version of the bill will reduce the per-machine fee assessed on manufacturers from $500 to $50, and direct all of the proceeds from those fees to the fund for compulsive gambling treatment.
     “The new Senate version of the bill will contain important improvements that strengthens the public integrity provisions of our gaming law,” Fumo said. “By eliminating the contentious issue of zoning preemption, I hope we can now get these provisions on the books before the first casinos open for business.”

# # #

Click here to see the attachment describing the policy revisions made by the House to SB 862.