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Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Posted 11:35 PM by

Is N.J. budget impasse a sign of Pa.'s future?

Will similar budget problems eventually force Pennsylvania to approve full fledged casino gambling?

How long will it take for slots parlors to become full casinos in Pennsylvania? One slots hopeful, Louis DeNaples, has predicted less than two years.With a pension crisis looming on the horizon, not to mention an underfunded Medicaid program and a state Legislature that doesn't know the meaning of belt-tightening, is Pennsylvania heading down the same path that got New Jersey in trouble?

A budget stalemate between Gov. Jon Corzine and the General Assembly will close Atlantic City's casinos tomorrow along with state beaches during one of the busiest periods of the summer.

John Mooney, Atlantic City's police chief, went so far as to call the shutdown a "state-created disaster."

The casino-hotels, which employ about 46,000 people and attract millions of gamblers and vacationers every year, will remain open. But the blackjack tables, roulette wheels, slot machines and horse racing books will go silent beginning at 8 a.m., barring a last-minute reprieve from the courts or state budget negotiators in Trenton, the Associated Press reports.

That's because among the state employees furloughed are the casino inspectors who keep tabs on the collection, counting and certification of the money won by the 12 gambling halls.

The casinos pump about $1.3 million a day into state coffers through an 8 percent gambling tax.

Pennsylvania expects to rake in $1 billion a year from 14 slots parlors and has already spent the money even though winners of the one-time-only licenses have yet to be announced.

How long will it be until Pennsylvania's near $1 billion surplus from last year's 25 billion budget is eaten away at the rate our lawmakers spend?

And once the state dips into the red, I can already forsee some legislative leaders holding the state hostage to expand the slots parlors into full fledged casinos.
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