- HALLELUJAH! SLOTS IN PA exclaims the headline at the Harness Tracks of America site, celebrating the decision by the Pennsylvania Gaming Board to issue conditional licenses to the five existing racetracks there - Penn National, Philly Park, and the harness tracks the Meadows, Chester Downs, and Pocono Downs. The board acted despite concluding that slots revenues would be significantly less than projected by the tracks, and after fining Penn National $50,000 for breaking a law barring out-of-state gaming interests from giving to state political campaigns. [Phila Inquirer]
And you can bet that there are some 'hallelujahs' going up in the corporate offices at Magna, whose $200 million sale of the Meadows is contingent on licensing, and crucial to the company's ability to pay off outstanding debt.
The payment is to be made in two notes, MEC said in a statement yesterday, with the first note of $175-million payable on Nov. 3.Reaction in neighboring states such as Maryland and West Virginia was not as joyous. Maryland has no slots at all, while West Virginia is sweating over the coming competition to their own slots parlors. Racetrack owners in the latter state are pushing for table games in order to keep pace. Bob Marshall, the GM of Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming Center, is leading the call for expanded gambling while painting a bleak picture of his track's revenues without them.
Another $25-million will be held back until the opening of a permanent casino at the track, which MEC purchased in 2001 for about $53-million in a deal that also included a stake in television network The Racing Network. [Toronto Globe and Mail]
"I anticipate a 30 percent to 40 percent drop-off in revenues....Last year we paid $110 million in taxes, so take off about $30 (million) or $40 million of that."..In addition, Marshall said as much as 30 percent of the track's employment could be laid off after Wheeling Island feels the full effect of competition from Pennsylvania. [The State Journal]The competition will have a profound effect on the state's revenues.
State Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said video gambling is the second largest tax revenue source for the state.That money may be coming from out of state now (60% of Wheeling Island's customers come from Pennsylvania, according to Marshall), but eventually, Pennsylvania will respond with table games of their own. And then there's Ohio and Delaware and Maryland....it's only a matter of time before the house of cards all comes crashing down.
“If we see this revenue reduced by 25 to 30 percent, we will either have to cut programs or find other sources of revenue,” he said. “I prefer table gambling because it is mostly out-of-state money being contributed to the state’s economy.” [Wheeling News Register]