A top Republican in the Senate — the one who controls the flow of legislation to the floor, no less — is skeptical not just of whether there is enough consumer demand for another casino in Philadelphia, but whether all signs are pointing toward a saturated market for gambling statewide.
“We have to take a long-term look at the industry and its return to the state treasury,” Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) said this week. “I think there is still an open question whether the commonwealth will benefit.”
Asked if he believed the bill would be brought to a floor vote between now and when the legislature breaks for the summer, Pileggi would only say: “It’s too soon to tell.”
Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.) opposes the House bill but for a different reason: He is angry at what he believes is a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the original intent of the gaming law, which required two casino licenses be granted to Philadelphia.
“They need to stop all the foolishness, and they need to start that process of putting that license in Philadelphia,” said Hughes, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The law requires it. I don’t know why people feel like they can ignore the law.”
Hughes said that of any area in the state, Philadelphia is best positioned to host a successful gaming parlor that would keep sending much-needed revenue to the state to help lessen the sting of property tax bills. The law directs a portion of slot-machine proceeds to property-tax relief statewide and to wage-tax relief in the city of Philadelphia. Money also is supposed to go to economic development and tourism projects, among other uses.
“Stop getting in the way of extra property-tax relief for homeowners across the commonwealth,” said Hughes, arguing for keeping the license in the city. “Stop being a boil on the butt of progress.”