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November 8, 2002     Cape Gazette
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November 8, 2002

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16 - CAPE , Friday, Nov. 8-Nov. 14, Slots Continued from page I percent of its General Fund rev- enue from its share of video lot- tery machine gambling at the state's three gaming venues: Har- rington Raceway, Dover Downs and Delaware Park. In Fiscal Year 2001, the state earned $176 million through its 35 percent take of the slots pot. Now facing a $95 million budget shortfall, those dollars are more dear than ever. The threat of competition for gamblers' coins comes on top of projected losses when Delaware's Clean Indoor Air Act, a comprehensive smoking ban, takes effect Nov. 27. "It will be a double whammy if those states are able to have slots. It is simple math and our numbers will decrease," said Jack Walls, president and CEO of the Har- rington Raceway Track, located at the Delaware State Fairgrounds. "The smoking ban is definitely going to hurt. Even if they all continue to come, while they are here they will have to stop play- ing and leave the building. If they smoke three cigarettes an hour it will cut their play by 25 percent. Any business would hurt if you cut 25 percent of their income," said Walls. Walls said the gaming industry believed either Pennsyl- vania candidate would look to slots but there was a question in Maryland. Democratic Maryland gubernatorial candidate and cur- rent Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend opposes any form of gambling. Maryland flirted with the idea of blackjack and slot machines in the mid-nineties and found many high powered casino lobbies were ready suitors. However, current Gov. Pads Glendening ended the courtship ia 1996, when a com- missioned study against casinos and slots. Glendening vowed to veto any bill to legalize slots or expand gambling in the state. Ehrlich's win means that the le- galization of slot machines is sure to shoot to the top Of the agenda when the legislature meets in Jan- uary. Maryland is facing a $1 bil- lion shortfall that will force the next governor and General As- sembly to make deep cuts in spending. He has promised to re- juvenate Maryland's budget with gambling revenue that he says will be earmarked for public schools. Ehrlich is the first Republican governor elected in Maryland since 1966. Although Ehrlieh's opposing party, the Democrats, retain control of the Legislature, they have considered a constim- tional amendment authorizing the operation of video slot machines at no more than four facilities in four different regions of the state in recent sessions. The Maryland gambling lobby is divided. Casino companies would like to see large scale casi- no gambling, while the incumbent horse racing industry only sup- ports legalized slots at race tracks. In the Pennsylvania race, for- mer Philadelphia and Democrat Mayor Ed Rendell, defeated his Republican challenger, Attorney General Mike Fisher of Pitts- burgh. While both candidates ex- pressed support for legalized slot machines - up to 2,500 machines at racetracks they had some dif- ferences. Most importantly, Ren- dell has said he would consider expanded gambling including riverboat casinos or Keno in bars. Rendell has estimated the state could realize as much as $500 Senate Continued from page 15 fortitude and vote on the ques- tion." Incumbent Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford, held his seat against a strong challenge by Lewes Demo- crat John Burton. Simpson is the only Republican among the four senators from Sussex. He, too, cites budgetary priorities as the first order of senate business. "We're going to have to form the Joint Finance Committee and then make some tough calls on how to trim state government," he said. "If Thurman Adams wants the leadership position, he has my backing. I imagine we'll seriously look at bringing sports betting to Delaware Park, Dover Downs and the Harrington Race Track. I also think we'll be discussing Sunday liquor sales in Delaware, too." Simpson said healthcare will be a high priority agenda item in the senate. "We've really got to im- prove healthcare. We need some reform measures regarding insur- ance companies that are cherry- picking low risk clients, which then drives costs up for others." Simpson said he would also like to investigate why Sussex County gets so little of the state's Open Space money derived from a por- tion of real estate transfer taxes. "This year, Sussex received about $186,000 of the $9 million in the fund. New Castle County gets most of that money while we're the fastest growing county and probably deserve a lot more. I'm going to look into that." Simpson also said he worries about the future of the Boca East property on Camp Arrowhead road. "We're still dealing with that issue. There are two thoughts on what to do with it. The environ- mental community would like us to buy the entire parcel. Others, and perhaps the Minner adminis- tration, would like to buy part of it and allow the developer to have the rest." Burton garnered 6,594 votes or 42.6 percent in his run against Simpson. "We can hold our heads high," said Burton. "We ran a clean campaign and every- one treated us fairly. My family and campaign people really pulled together to make this happen." As it was his inaugural run for political office, Burton said he "learned a lot this time around" and wouldn't rule out a future for- ay into politics. "All I'll say for now is that I didn't throw the signs away," he said. million while Fisher said that esti- mate is inflated ad predicts a $200 million slots pot for the state. Rendell has said that his first priority would be to lower property taxes by raising the state's share of the cost of local schools to 50 percent He said he could get the money for his prop- erty-tax initiative by legalizing slot machines at the state's five horse-racing tracks Pennsylvania faces a deficit es- timated to be between $800 mil- lion and $1.8 billion next year. Rendell must work with a GOP dominated Legislature but the need to close that gap could force legislators to go forward with le- galizing slots. Senate President Robert Jubelirer, R., Blair has criticized the plan because of its potential to worsen tensions be- tween the city and the suburbs. Jubelirer added that he predicts the plan to legalize slot machines at the racetracks could be stalled by objections to amendments seeking more gambling options, such as keno or riverboats - as happened in the past- and called it "a Pandora's box of problems." However, the state's shaky fiscal picture may limit the governor in many ventures but seems to serve as evidence in favor of Rendell's plan. A September 2002 poll by Quinnipiac University Polling In- stitute found that by a 56-35 per- cent margin Pennsylvania voters back Rendell's plan to put slots at race tracks. By a similar 56-36 percent margin, voters support le- galized river boat gaming. "By a slim majority, Pennsylvania vot- ers say riverboat gambling and slot machines are acceptable ways to raise state revenue, but there is no great enthusiasm for the gam- bling measures," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac polling institute. The Pennsylvania legislature referred three bills to the Finance Committee in the last session. In- eluded in the gaming bills are an act providing for waterfront de- velopment and riverboat gaming; an act authorizing a video lottery system at certain retail liquor es- tablishments and an act authoriz- ing certain racetrack gaming, in- eluding slots. The anticipated changes in the neighboring states may stand to strengthen argumts for expand- ed gaming in Delaware. In the most recent legislative session two such plans were proposed in the House. Rep. Bill Oberle, R-Beecher's Lot, proposed reintroducing sports gaming in Delaware. Delaware is one of only four states exempted from a federal ban on sports gaming. The other three - Oregon, Montana and Nevada - do not present regional competition. "Sports gaming is something our neighbors can't in- stitute," said Oberle. "Delaware can expect competition for the peoplewho are currently patroniz- ing our slot machine venues. We need to consider how we can ad- dress the revenue shortfall that will inevitably happen when Maryland or Pennsylvania, or both, begin gaming operations. Oberle initiated a House resolu- tion for a feasibility study on in- state sports gambling which passed in June 2002. "Let's not kid ourselves, sports gambling goes on every day in Delaware. I'm just saying we should at least look at the possibility of institut- ing it legally, in a careful and reg- ulated fashion." A second House bill provides for a limited expansion of Delaware's public gaming system beyond the state's racetracks, in order to provide a dedicated source of revenue for the financial support of non-profit organiza- tions and to provide additional revenue to support community re- development initiatives, particu- larly in brown fields and targeted areas, to be termed "Qualified En- tertainment Venues." Qu01ified venues would include vessels or barges such as a proposed facility just off tile shore of Penns Grove, N. J., in Delaware waters. 'the election results in Mary- land and Pennsylvania certainly strengthen my position on ex- panding. I will be reintroducing the bill in January," said Rep. Joseph Miro, R-Pike Creek, the bill's main sponsor. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner has not supported expanded gaming in the past. "I have been reluctant to make the state more reliant on slot revenues. People have known the day would come when Maryland, Pennsylvania or both would insti- tute slots," said Minner. This year, Minner did consider a proposal to increase the state's percentage of profit from the gaming facilities in exchange for extended hours at the casinos but no agreement was reached. That proposal came from the state Sen- ate. Sen. George Bunting, D- Bethany Beach, said the idea is still viable even in light of the im- pending changes in neighboring states. "Even with a reasonable adjustment of funds coming back to the state, these facilities will still be making embarrassingly large profits," said Bunting. He also noted that Ehrlich has said he would not establish gaming on Maryland's Eamtern Shore. "'If he is true to that pledge the competi- tion from Maryland would be small. The Eastern Shore popula- tion is the biggest draw for I-Iar- rington and Dover," he said. Sen. David McBride, D-Hawk's Nest, also supports the move. "It seems the slots revenues are very lop- sided. We passed the legislation to rescue the horse racing indus- try. No one, in their wildest dreams, imagined gaming would be this lucrative. I believe the racetrack interests should be will- ing to step up to the table. I'm asking for the tracks to remember who put them where they are now. (olors, Inc. A NEW COUNTERTOP IS AN ECONOMICAL WAY TO REMODEL YOUR KITCHEN. Cquntertops00q00 Ip We manufacture and 41001i00 I.olon,. 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