Monday, April 03, 2006

119: “The Battle of Pennsylvania, Part 1”

Mark Levy is the Associated Press writer who’s beat is the Pennsylvania State General Assembly in Harrisburg. He’s been doing it for a while now, and has gotten pretty darned good at ferreting out information from various sources and connecting the dots. Of course, with all the hubris and arrogance in Harrisburg, it is getting easier for everybody to connect the dots. He is a sample of Mr. Levy’s latest:

Disparate Pa. groups oppose slot sites; one also hedges bets
Associated Press
Posted on Sun, Apr. 02, 2006

Slot-machine parlors are coming to Pennsylvania, but not without a fight by diverse groups hoping to persuade state regulators, starting this week, that they should go up in someone else's neighborhood.

Historic preservationists, pastors, neighborhood groups and veterans of gambling battles are lined up to testify against slot plans before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which opens more than a month of hearings Wednesday in historic Gettysburg, where a proposed parlor has drawn strong opposition.

Opponents, however, will not have the same clout as they would if they were appearing before local boards. And at least one group, recognizing it faces a difficult fight, is hedging its bets - negotiating for contributions to community causes with a company whose slots plan it opposes.

Public input will be just one of seven major considerations of state gambling regulators when they review the applications for 14 available licenses. Others include the integrity of the owners, the quality of the business plan and the potential for making a positive economic impact on the community.

Host communities, which will get jobs and a cut of gambling revenue worth millions of dollars, can use their zoning authority to block a casino. But so far, none has shown an inclination to do so.

That has left much of the opposition to six groups that are working against casino proposals in Limerick, Gettysburg, Bethlehem, Allentown and parts of Philadelphia.

Some worry that gambling will deepen the social ills in their community. Others fear traffic and gamblers will change the character of their towns, for the worse. Some simply believe gambling is wrong.

For many, it will be the first time they have testified on anything.

"Perhaps it was ignorance on my part, but I felt like I woke up one day and found that one (casino) was being considered in my backyard," said the Rev. Randy Johnson, pastor of North Point Community Church in the Philadelphia suburb of Limerick.

What roused Johnson four months ago was the unveiling of plans by one of the nation's largest gambling companies, Boyd Gaming Corp., to build a slots parlor on nearby farmland under provisions of the state's 2004 slots law.

Boyd is one of 22 applicants for a slots license under the Pennsylvania law that allows for up to 61,000 slot machines at racetracks, resorts and standalone sites. The state hopes the industry will generate $3 billion in annual revenues, with 52 percent collected in taxes, much of it for property tax cuts.

Organized opposition has not appeared everywhere. Some places, such as the state's six licensed racetracks or downtown Pittsburgh, are virtually assured of getting a casino, gambling opponents say.

But in areas where parlors are being contested, opponents are using every means available - including e-mail, Web sites, petitions and community meetings - to build cases against slots in their communities.

The groups even hold strategy sessions by conference calls coordinated by Dianne Berlin, a Lancaster County resident who helped start a statewide group in the 1990s that opposed the legalization of riverboat gambling.

The opposition group in Gettysburg, led by a psychotherapist who once marched against the Vietnam War, has drawn national attention and received funding for things like brochures and a billboard from the Washington, D.C.-based Civil War Preservation Trust…

Read the rest of Mr. Levy’s great and fascinating article at: The Times Leader online.

The big question is, of course, how did we get from Racetrack and Riverboat gambling to all these free-standing slots parlors?

The answer, of course, is “Fast Eddie” Rendell. Before he was elected, the plan was to allow slots parlors at the main race tracks around the state to allow them to compete more fairly with New Jersey, Delaware, and West Virginia. There had been talk for years about riverboat gambling – one each in Philadelphia on the Delaware River, Pittsburgh on the Ohio River, Erie on the lake-front, Scranton-Wilkes Barre on the east branch of the Susquehanna, and Harrisburg on the riverfront of the Susquehanna. Erie and northeastern Pennsylvania were ‘maybes’.

But after he was sworn in, “Fast Eddie” changed his tune – not in public, though. He changed his tune to the legislature. Hence Act 71 of 2004 – Pennsylvania’s corruption-enhancing Gambling Control Act.

One need only realize that as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the Clinton years in the Whitehouse, Rendell wooed the gambling industry in order to solicit funds for targeted Congressional elections. He received tons of money for his own gubernatorial campaign resulting in his election in 2002. He will be running for reelection this November, funded in the main by money from the gambling industry.

Other States’ resistance is Pennsylvania Politicians’ Windfall!
As gambling tries to spread into all the states with its phony and inflated promise of big money, the industry is running into resistance. Where some states were on the verge of introducing legislation to enable gambling, suddenly there is resistance, or even rejection. Maryland, which had already pretty much targeted the cities where casinos would go suddenly rejected gambling along the same lines as Pennsylvania.

Is this bad news for Pennsylvania, or good news? The answer is both, depending on who you are. If you are a member of the elected body of state officials serving under the Governor, or in the General Assembly, or even on one of the State Courts as a judge, you will be the recipient of a great deal of largesse from the gambling industry as it tries to influence your vote, or your considerations in court, and in the case of the governor, your influence in both the legislature and the courts.

If you are Joe Average, the tax-payer, it is bad news as you will not get a fair shake out of your elected officials. You’ve been out-bid in a lottery in which no one offered you a ticket.

They used to say, “all politics is local.” In Harrisburg now they say “all politics comes with a dollar sign attached.”

What a great reputation for Mr. Penn’s ‘Walking Purchase’!


“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" --GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” --GettysBLOG

Remember in May! Before you vote,


Anonymous said...

The fight on slot machines was lost when the people did not engage in the fight as the enabling legislation was passed by the legislature and then sighned by your Governor.

Now everyone wants to bitch---bad form and useless.

PEOPLE---What happens in the legislature matters!