SLOT MEASURE FALLS ON UNWILLINGNESS TO TAX AND REGULATE INDIANS
HARRISBURG, December 20, 2003 – The legislature failed to agree to a measure legalizing slot machines in Pennsylvania because a small handful of lawmakers have refused to accept certain realities about Native American rights under federal law, state Senator Vincent J. Fumo (D-Philadelphia) said today.
"Significantly, the objection of those who opposed our plan was not that we would have 13 venues – the number necessary to earn $1 billion for property tax relief – but was simply an objection to who owns a particular slot venue."
The Senate Democratic slot machine gaming proposal was not designed to allow Indians into the Pennsylvania gaming market, nor to guarantee any particular party a license.
Rather, Fumo said it reflects the fact that Pennsylvania, as a $3 billion potential gaming market, can expect Native Americans to pursue a claim. The state is better off regulating and taxing them, instead of running the risk that they could eventually become a competitive threat within our borders, operating outside state regulatory control.
Democrats developed a proposal that would impose the strongest regulatory framework in the country, and would raise $1 billion for Governor Rendell’s property tax relief initiative. That proposal had the support of the Senate and House Democratic Leaders, who represent the majority of votes needed to pass a slots bill.
Approval of that plan has now been delayed because a small group of legislators, offering no good reason, insist on placing the state’s revenue stream and regulatory authority over gambling at risk by their refusal to allow Indian gaming to come under the state’s licensing and taxing umbrella.
"For almost a year, our caucus has steadfastly stated our insistence on strict regulatory controls, public protections, equitable allocation of slot revenue, and a sustainable revenue stream for property tax relief. Our position will not change," Fumo said.
Senate Democrats have put forth only substantive analysis to date of the gambling market in Pennsylvania. They recognize that Indians have certain rights under federal law, and would like to see them regulated and taxed like the owners of any other slot operation.
"We have yet to hear a substantive argument for why Indians should be excluded from this legislation," Fumo said.
Democrats stand committed to moving this issue forward in the future to provide property tax relief throughout Pennsylvania and wage tax relief in Philadelphia. They will not, however, agree to a bill that will ultimately fail to deliver on that promise.