VIDEO SLOTS AND RIVERBOAT GAMBLING BILLS WILL DIVERT FUNDS
FROM STATE LOTTERY
HARRISBURG, Pa. Nov. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania Racing Association, (PRA) which represents more than 30,000 employees who are dependent on the state's horse racing industry for their livelihood, is calling upon the state Legislature to vote against passage of two house bills (No. 1736 and No. 2176) that would legalize video slot machines and riverboat gambling in Pennsylvania -- arguing that such legislation would divert money from the sale of lottery tickets, create unmanageable enforcement problems and cripple the state's horse racing industry, a spokesman for the group said today.
To encourage public discussion on these bills, this week the association will run advertisements in every major newspaper in the state. In the ads, the PRA points out that while it is not necessarily opposed to the expansion of legalized and controlled gaming activities, a "time out" should be called before any legislation covering new forms of gambling is passed. This would enable an extensive study to be made on the full social and economic impact that any new gambling activity would have upon the lottery, other industries, the taxpayer and the economy as a whole.
"These bills, if passed, would give Pennsylvania more gambling outlets than any other state in the nation -- more than Nevada and New Jersey," explained John R. Long, vice president of Ladbroke Racing Corporation. "I don't think anyone has really stopped and thought about how all of these activities will impact each other, or how they will impact the economy of the state, our local communities, or the taxpayer.
"Other states that have expanded gambling activities without a coordinated gameplan have met with disastrous results," said Long. "All we're saying is that we should stop and think before we repeat their mistakes. There simply are not enough people in Pennsylvania to support all of these forms of gambling. Without a coordinated plan, everyone is going to lose -- especially our senior citizens who depend upon the lottery for special programs."
According to Long, the video slots bill would allow the state's 17,000 taverns to install as many as 68,000 video slot and poker machines. The PRA estimates that these machines would divert millions of dollars from the state lottery, which is already experiencing a revenue shortfall. As a result, many special programs for senior citizens will have to be cut back or eliminated.
"Proponents of the video bill argue that these machines would benefit the lottery," explained Long. "But this premise is based upon some highly wishful thinking, and staggering assumptions. The lottery returns 41 cents on every dollar played to the state. The proposed video bill would return only 6 cents on a dollar. To generate the kind of income they are talking about, Pennsylvanians would have to pour more than $5 billion annually into these machines -- which is five times the annual take on the lottery, and 10 times the annual horse racing revenues in the state."
Long also notes that the current slots legislation, as written, contains no enforcement provision to ensure that the 68,000 machines will be maintained in accordance with approved gaming standards. According to PRA's own study of the matter, which is outlined in a position paper it is sending to the Legislature this week, the state police currently are unable to keep tabs on the more than 1,000 illegal machines already in existence.
"More ominous is the report just published by the New Jersey Commission of Investigation which produced compelling evidence of the links between the manufacture and distribution of video slot machines and organized crime," said Bob Green, president of Philadelphia Park.
For these reasons, The PRA is this asking the Legislature to commission a study that would, among others things, explore how the machines would be regulated, as well as the cost of enforcement and responsible state regulatory agencies.
"Has anyone asked the law enforcement officials what they think of these bills? Or the attorney general? Or the Department of Revenue? Or the Liquor Control Board? Or the state or local police?" asked Long. "These legislative proposals are too serious to be acted upon without full public debate. The people of Pennsylvania need to know that if the riverboat gambling bill is passed, they will have casino gambling in Pennsylvania. Is it the intent of the Legislature to allow Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to become like Las Vegas and Atlantic City?"
The PRA further argues that the arbitrary introduction of new gambling laws, without consideration of their impact upon horse racing, could undo what was accomplished with past legislation, such as off-track betting (OTB) -- which has already led to significant capital investment and the creation of more than 1,000 new jobs in the state. Within two years, this investment will exceed $60 million and an additional 2,000 jobs will be created.
"There's a limited gambling market in the state," explained Long. "We've worked hard to create new jobs in racing, through OTB, but this new legislation could wipe them out. Any jobs created by video slots and riverboat gambling would very likely be offset by losses in our industry, so who wins?"
There is a possibility that the bills will be scheduled for a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives prior to the end of the legislative
session in early December. Gov. Casey vetoed a video slot machine bill last year, but it was reintroduced in a modified form as House Bill 1736.
The PRA is urging all Pennsylvanians to contact their state senators and representatives this week and ask them to vote against the bills.
/Editors: Contacts for followup interviews by region are as follows. Pittsburgh: Bob Sabot, Ladbroke at The Meadows, 412-225-9300; Philadelphia: Geri Mercer, Philadelphia Park, 215-639-9000; Harrisburg: Fred Lipkin, Penn National, 717-469-2211; and Wilkes-Barre, Scranton: Dale Rapson, operations manager, Pocono Downs, 717-825-6681./
/CONTACT: Herb Grayek of Pennsylvania Racing Association, 717-469-2211, or Karl Skutski of Skutski & Associates, 412-281-5656, for PRA/ CO: Pennsylvania Racing Association ST: Pennsylvania IN: CNO SU: CD -- PG003 -- 4825 11/19/91 09:43 EST