Keystone slots

Now that the governor has signed the slots bill, it looks like the machines are coming, paving the way for the creation of a massive slot industry in Pennsylvania. From ABCnews:

Gov. Ed Rendell signed laws on Monday authorizing 61,000 slot machines in Pennsylvania more than any other state except Nevada and using most of the state’s share to pay for a $1 billion cut in property taxes a year.
Revenue from the slot machines, which would be located at 14 sites, including seven horse tracks, would be used to cut property taxes by an average 20 percent.

Rendell, a Democrat who had made slots-for-tax-relief the centerpiece of his 2002 election campaign, signed the bills at Philadelphia Park, the thoroughbred track that produced Kentucky Derby-winner Smarty Jones.

“It isn’t a panacea, but it certainly isn’t the demon it’s been made out to be,” Rendell said. “It’s a good, significant step on the road to property-tax relief.”

Opponents of the slots bill predict a proliferation of crime, gambling addiction and other social ills. They complained that the bill was crafted in secret by a handful of party leaders and lacks adequate safeguards against corruption and conflicts of interest among members of the state panel that would oversee the slots parlors.

Proponents said the law would allow the state to recapture much of the money Pennsylvanians pour into slot machines in neighboring states and help revive the state’s horse racing industry.

The property tax reduction will not be immediate. Officials say the initial relief would be deferred until at least 2006 to allow time for the slots parlors to obtain licenses and gear up.

Of the roughly $3 billion a year slots are expected to generate, the licensees would keep 48 percent, the state would get 34 percent and the rest would be divided among the equine industry, public construction projects, and counties and municipalities in which slots parlors are located.

Pennsylvania Governor OKs Gambling Bill

That is a lot of slot machines. This is precisely why Atlantic City should have spent the past few years reinventing itself as a destination. They have made great progress along these lines, but haven’t quite shaken the quarter slot parlor stigma, at least in the mainstream media.

This expansion of slots could have far-reaching effects from Maryland to Ohio, and possibly beyond.