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Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Posted 6:30 PM by

Smaller Slotsylvania cities may get some hush money

Small Pennsylvania towns and cities want a share of the slots money too.A Senate committee that regulates Pennsylvania's slot machine parlors unanimously approved a bill that will give smaller Pennsylvania cities and towns, like Scranton and Johnstown, a taste of the gambling profits before Philly and Pittsburgh can grab more.

The 2004 slots law mandated 5 percent of annual slots revenue go into a fund for economic development and tourism. Much of the money is already going to pay for the Philadelphia Convention Center expansion, improvements at Pittsburgh International Airport and constructing the new Pittsburgh Penguins hockey arena.

So much so, that Philly and Pittsburgh can't get a quarter more from the fund for another 10 years.

However, a bill penned by state Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria) and approved by the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee on Monday would change that portion of the law from a 10-year wait, to requiring that up to $1.5 billion of slots revenue be split up among other municipalities before the state's two largest cities can claim more of the fund.

That's one way to keep the rest of the state from getting too jealous and reconsidring its stance on legalized gambling. Hush money in its truest sense for the land between the two large cities, which James Carville has called Alabama.

Or as Wozniak told Times-Shamrock newspapers, "The bill adds another layer of confidence for small-town Pennsylvania that big cities will not again jump ahead of them in line for help with projects." .

His bill must now clear the Senate Appropriations Committee before it can be called for a vote.

Meanwhile, the two large cities are still far from gambling meccas. Pittsburgh's slots parlor - Majestic Star - isn't slated to open until mid-2009 and the opening of two Philadelphia casinos, Foxwoods and SugarHouse, is delayed by neighborhood opposition.

In fact, the whole Louis DeNaples licensing mess may long be over before Philly's casinos start raking in the dough. Not

Candidates looking to replace retiring state Sen. Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia), one of the architects of the slots law, are all over the place on the matter.

The lone Republican running, Jack Morley, wants both slots parlors built immediately, according to the Philly Daily News.

Among the Democrats: Community activist Anne Dicker, who helped found Casino-Free Philadelphia, doesn't want them build them at all. Attorney Larry Farnese wants public hearings on possibly moving them someplace else in the city. And union business manager John Dougherty wants the neighbors satisfied before the slots parlors are built.

The trio will face each other in the April 22 primary.

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