SENATE DEMOCRATS STATE POSITION ON SLOTS BILL
HARRISBURG, July 18, 2003 –J. P. Kurish, spokesman for the Democratic Leader, Sen. Robert Mellow (D-Lackawanna) and Gary Tuma, spokesman for Democratic Appropriations Chairman Sen. Vincent Fumo (D-Philadelphia), jointly issued the following statement today on behalf of the two senators, concerning legislation to legalize slot machine gambling in Pennsylvania:
"On June 25, the Senate passed a bill to legalize slot machines at eight racetracks within the state. After weeks of serious negotiation, the bill contained numerous provisions designed to obtain value for taxpayers, and to protect the public from fraud and corruption.
"Unfortunately, the version of the bill now before the House eliminates many of those safeguards, and has substantially weakened the ability of state regulators to ensure that gambling in Pennsylvania is run cleanly and in a manner that serves the public interest.
"Senate Democrats cannot support the current version of the bill. It will be dead on arrival.
"Some House leaders have chosen to declare that if our caucus does not support the House changes to the bill, we are guilty of killing slot machine gaming and with it the opportunity for property tax reductions. That is not the case.
"Senate Democrats will continue to insist on certain measures that they believe are crucial to sound public policy. If done right, an expansion of gambling can benefit Pennsylvania. If not done correctly, it can be a detriment. Make no mistake about it, if not properly structured and tightly regulated, gambling can exert a corruptive influence on society. Senate Democrats will do their best not to let that happen.
"We signaled to House leadership early on that there were certain changes to the slots bill that Senate Democrats could not accept. They chose to make those changes anyway, bowing to the interests of track owners, without even involving our caucus in negotiations until the 11th hour, after most of the important decisions had already been finalized.
"Senators Mellow and Fumo will not allow Senate Democrats to be targeted as the ones "killing" the bill simply because they will not rubber-stamp the House version. If the bill dies, it will be because other parties are unwilling to participate in good faith negotiations to make sure that the legislation is in the best interest of Pennsylvania, not just in the narrow interest of track owners."