"What's black and white and read all over?"

Thursday, December 29, 2005
Posted 1:58 PM by

The game's afoot, and boy does it smell funky

It will takes years of investigative reporting to find out who's really winning when Pennsylvanians start pulling slot machine levers next year. Meanwhile, corrupt politicos stand to make millions.The deadline has come and gone for Pennsylvania's slots machine derby, in which as many as 25 companies and partnerships are vying for the 14 licenses up for grabs.

My only questions now are which politicians will get a piece of the profits, and how soon until they turn these proposed slots parlors into full-fledged casinos.

We've gotten some hints from the Philly Inquirer this week, which reported that some of the groups included David Sweet, Gov. Ed Rendell's campaign manager; Kenneth Trujillo, former city solicitor under Philly Mayor John Street; and Joe Ashdale, the head of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

"It's inevitable that applicants will have politically connected partners when entering into a highly regulated industry such as gambling," said Christopher Craig, chief counsel to Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D., Phila.), a leading proponent of the law, told the Inqy. "People don't like it, but I don't know how you would regulate that away."

Former 76ers president Pat Croce (pictured here) and Donald Trump are the big names in the running for slots parlor licenses. It's the little fish, the guys we don't hear about, that worry me the most.It seems pretty fucking simple to me. The Legislature should have just required that all applicants and their employees must abide by the state's ethics law, which is supposed to shield us against conflicts of interest. Instead, they created a loophole for themselves and any other state official who can afford it, to own up to 1 percent of a parlor.

Meanwhile, the public is left to play detective and wade through tons of paperwork and limited partnership filings to see who would benefit the most from this debacle. Al Capone couldn't have planned legalized gambling better.

This is in a state that still has a monopoly on all liquor sales and parses out beer distributor and bar licenses like they are a King's grant to print money. Ridiculous.

I'm betting that after the novelty of slot machines ebbs in the first year, the parlors won't produce enough revenues to justify large decreases in property taxes or will fail to keep up with increasing school and government costs, let alone the social problems caused by more gambling.


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