Philadelphia Slot Machine Distributors Given the Go to Operate Statewide

Philadelphia state gambling regulators voted on Wednesday, June 28 to allow slot-machine distributors to operate all over the state. The move settled a dispute that almost stalled plans for Philadelphia's first slot parlors to open this year.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board chairman Tad Decker believes that the board is now in a good position to approve slot parlors at the state's 6 licensed horse-racing facilities by September. By the end of the year, four tracks could already open slot parlors.

"I believe we just took a major step forward for gambling in Pennsylvania, " said Decker. The chairman did not appear at the meeting, but listened in by telephone.

Shares of track owner Penn National Gaming Inc and several other slot machine manufacturers including the nation's largest, International Game Technology went up as an effect of the favorable vote.

The opening of slots parlor can be called a victory of sorts for Gov Ed Rendell, who campaigned four years ago in 2002 for the tax cuts aided by slots revenue. One third of the gambling revenue is intended for tax cuts for millions of homeowners around the state and people who pay Philadelphia's wage tax.

Two board members were caught in a dispute over the operating rules for slot distributors. They debated whether the companies could operate statewide or in only one of two regions. At the Wednesday meeting, former Democratic legislator and board member Jeffrey W. Coy agreed to drop his stand that operators should only operate in one of two regions, which in his opinion would give more opportunities for small businesses. The opposing board member and Republican appointee Kenneth McCabe used his power to veto to deflect Coy's proposal, saying that the law required the use of distributors, but not by region.

Coy's decision regarding the matter came only a week before the cutoff of the board's two-year exemption from the normal state review for regulations. Any regulations that is approved by the board after the 5th of July would have required a review process that could take longer than 6 months, therefore the threat in delaying the opening of the slot parlors until late next year. The approval in the regulations was followed by the approval of 12 companies' license applications.

The meeting was scheduled a week after Brian D. Clark was nominated by Rendell to serve on the Pennsylvania State Harness Racing Commission. Clark was Coy's Democratic colleague in the state House of Representatives.


Thursday, 06. 2006
Marissa Patterson