The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Tom Barnes says Pennsylvania legislators are getting closer to approving table gaming legislation.
A bill to expand slots casinos by adding blackjack, poker and other table games took a major step forward last night, as the Republican-controlled state Senate voted 28 to 22 to approve the measure.
Senate Bill 711, which will generate $250 million in new tax revenue for the state and additional funds for libraries in Pittsburgh and suburban Allegheny County, could clear its final hurdle tonight, when the Democrat-controlled state House votes on it.
Since most of the 104 House Democrats, joined by a handful of Republicans, are expected to support the bill, it's likely to be sent to Gov. Ed Rendell for signature by Friday. That will allow Mr. Rendell to avoid having to lay off 1,000 or so state employees in order to balance the 2009-10 budget.
The bill authorizes two "resort hotel casinos," which can each have up to 600 slot machines and 50 table games. One resort casino license has already been awarded, to a convention center in Valley Forge. Once the bill becomes law, would-be applicants for the second license will have 90 days to apply to the state Gaming Control Board.
It's about time. If this bill is approved by the House and signed by Gov. Rendell on Friday, the gap from when the budget was approved (after a 101 day impasse) to when the budget was finally finished (approving table games) would be at 91 days.
In other words, PA's budget will be 192 days late when all is said and done (assuming the rest of this table gaming issue goes smoothly *cross your fingers*).
The good news, at least our government's lack of urgency won't cost the state an additional 1,000 jobs.