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Tuesday, July 05, 2005


- It seems that Pennsylvania state legislators are always working over the 4th of July holiday, which I guess is appropriate since they were working in Philadelphia back on that day in 1776 when it was just a regular July 4, and there was no Dwyer being run at Belmont. It was around this time last year that the legislature controversially guided the slots bill through, and this past Sunday, a Democratic representative introduced legislation that would overturn the state high court’s decision giving local communities zoning power over casinos that are being built there in one way or another whether they like it or not.

Gambling proponents worry that a municipal zoning process would delay the expected $1 billion in property tax cuts statewide that are expected to be financed by a tax on slot-machine revenues.
Many gambling opponents in the Legislature hailed the Supreme Court decision, and maintain that municipal officials should have control over the impact of the casinos on their communities. [Times (AP)]
I often wish there was another way to “save” racing than slot machines. Other than the fact that it attracts people who lose money that goes to support the industry and sport that I love, to be honest there’s really nothing else good to say about them. I hope it’s not as numbing to those who sit there and play as it was for me to watch them at Saratoga harness last year. State Rep. Mike Veon, backed by Governor Rendell, is concerned that a dispute with a single local zoning board could delay the entire process.
All seven licenses will be issued at the same time, so if there is battling between the gaming board and a local zoning agency over just one casino site, Veon said, it could delay the issuance of all seven licenses. That, in turn, would likely delay issuing gaming licenses for five other standalone casinos..
Veon admitted that Pennsylvania has "a long tradition of granting significant zoning authority to local communities." He agreed that "only in the most important circumstances" should the state pre-empt local zoning.

"There is no doubt in my mind that this is one of those rare times the state Legislature should pre-empt local municipalities' zoning authority," he said. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
These "most important circumstances" in Pennsylvania as far as I can see is largely to shift education funding from property owners to casino gamblers, a very Republican idea to me. I can’t imagine that supporting the racing industry, as important as that is for you and me and for those who toil with thoroughbreds and standardbreds in Pennsylvania, could really warrant exercising this kind of unprecedented override of local authority. I think it’s understandable for some communities not to want a casino at all; since they don’t have a say in that, you would think they would at least be entitled to enforce their local zoning laws, using their familiarity of the area, and having the right to protect the area's character and history if necessary. This also seems to be along the lines of the reasoning of the Supreme Court last week when they ruled constitutional the taking of private property for a commercial enterprise if it would have an overriding beneficial economic effect. I wonder what those guys working on July 4 in Philly back in 1776 would have thought about all of this.