SENATE PASSES LANDMARK SLOT MACHINE LEGISLATION
HARRISBURG, June 25, 2003 –The state Senate today adopted legislation that sets new precedents for taxpayer value and strict government regulation of gambling.
With an amendment that would legalize slot machines at up to eight horse racing tracks, the Senate set the stage for Pennsylvania to become the first state to obtain substantial up-front licensing fees from gaming operators.
"The commonwealth will receive $50 million for each license. We will immediately bring to the commonwealth $300 million, or even $400 million to be used for property tax relief and other needs," said Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D-Philadelphia), who was one of the main negotiators of the final version of the legislation.
In addition, Fumo and Senate Democratic leader Robert Mellow (D-Lackawanna) fought for and succeeded in placing in the bill these other provisions, which break new ground among states that have legalized gambling:
- Establishing a clear approval process for any future Indian casino gambling.
- Setting substantial license fees for manufacturers and suppliers of slot machines.
- Banning political campaign contributions from gambling operators, directors, and top managerial employees, with the requirement that the CEO of the gaming operation sign a notarized affidavit annually that such contributions are not being made.
- Establishing a substantial fund for horsemen and for track backside improvements.
- Requiring that any subsequent purchaser of an existing license also pay the $50 million licensing fee.
- Guaranteeing that eminent domain authority cannot be used to take private land for the use of gambling operations.
In addition to these precedent-setting provisions, the amendment also contains numerous other anti-corruption and good-government provisions already adopted by other states, including strict state electronic controls over the slot machines, and a ban on public officials owning a substantial equity interest in gaming operations.
"This amendment does two important things," said Fumo "It returns money to the commonwealth and it contains strict law enforcement provisions and safeguards that will help keep us free of corruption.
"It also makes sure that this General Assembly will have a say before any Indian casino operation is situated in Pennsylvania."
After the amendment was adopted as part of HB 623 on a 27-22 vote, the bill passed the Senate. It now goes back to the House of Representatives, which must decide whether or not to approve of the bill as it has been amended.