INDIAN GAMING PROVISION WILL PROTECT STATE TAXPAYERS
HARRISBURG, December 22, 2003 – State Senator Vincent Fumo (D-Philadelphia), expressed confidence today that slot machine gambling will be legalized early next year -- and with it a plan to reduce school property taxes and the Philadelphia wage tax -- once the reasons for certain provisions of the legislation are more clearly understood.
During negotiations last Friday and into the morning Saturday, it became apparent that there were more than 20 votes (of 26 needed) in the Senate and more than 90 votes (of 102 needed) in the House to approve a bill that included 13 venues, strict regulatory controls and an Indian gaming provision. A few legislators are withholding their support because of the Indian gaming section, in a misguided belief that by doing so they will keep Indian gaming out of this state.
The large number of legislators supporting these provisions are not the ones preventing passage. The few legislators in each chamber who insist upon removal of the Indian provision are the ones who are holding up approval.
"It is important that everyone understand this point: Those who oppose our bill are not voting to keep Indian gambling out of Pennsylvania. They are simply voting to prevent the state from regulating and taxing Indian gaming," Fumo said.
"That is a foolhardy and shortsighted position that puts the taxpayers of the commonwealth at risk," he added.
Fumo pointed out that Native Americans have certain rights under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. If Pennsylvania legalizes slot machine gambling, there is a very good chance that an Indian tribe with historical roots in Pennsylvania could press a claim and win the right to operate casinos in this state.
In every state that has thus far legalized Class 3 gaming such as slots, Indians who have sought the right to open full-fledged casinos have been successful. That would pose an obvious competitive threat to state-licensed parlors and thus to the revenue stream on which the state is depending for its $1 billion worth of property tax reduction.
"It is in the state’s best interest to bring Indian gaming under the state’s regulatory umbrella. We propose a provision that allows them to apply for a license. They would agree to abide by state regulations and they would agree to pay the 34 percent tax on slot revenue," Fumo said.
Fumo’s legislation would not guarantee a slot license to any Indian tribe. It would give a newly created gaming board the authority to consider applications and award a license to any tribe meeting the qualifications, including being able to pass a background check.
The Indian gaming provision is consistent with the leadership Fumo has shown on slots since serious consideration of the issue began last spring.
Fumo insisted that a $50 million license fee
be mandated from each licensee.
Fumo insisted that political campaign
contributions from gambling interests be banned.
Fumo insisted on tight state regulatory
controls, including the state maintaining central electronic control over
Fumo insisted that strict background checks
be a prerequisite for obtaining a license.
Fumo hired the national industry leader to conduct a market analysis that showed how to generate the $1 billion necessary for Governor Rendell’s property tax and Philadelphia wage tax reduction plan.
Now, a few legislators are standing in the way of slot legislation and property tax reform because they oppose a prudent provision that protects the commonwealth revenue stream from being undermined by unregulated competition.
Fumo has set forth clear reasons why it is wise to include Indian gaming in the law. It is time for those who oppose the bill on these grounds to explain to why they are against allowing Native Americans to operate a slot parlor that is regulated and taxed by the state. So far, the people of Pennsylvania have heard simple obstructionism from these opponents, but no actual reasons.