By Kellie Patrick Gates
If the state brings table games (in addition to slots) to some Philadelphia neighborhoods, a portion of the revenue generated should stay in those neighborhoods and not be directed into the city's general fund, said several state legislators and a city councilman during a press conference Tuesday.
State senators Larry Farnese and Curtis Thomas, representatives Babette Josephs and Mike O'Brien, and City Councilman Bill Green all spoke in favor of a provision included in the latest version of Senate Bill 711 to pass the Senate, which calls for the proceeds of a 2 percent tax on table games to be split between the city's general fund and a grant program for non-profits located within 1.5 miles of each casino.
To Ed Kirlin, one of the founders of the Pennsport Civic Association, the problem is that any community within the 1.5 mile radius would have equal opportunity to get grant money. “The legislators are on the right track but the distribution of any dollars should be weighted in proportion to a community's proximity to the harms the casinos create,” he said in an email. “Pennsport will suffer the full brunt of Foxwoods impacts but will only receive a fraction of the dollars for damages.”
While the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association does not have an official position, NLNA President Matt Ruben feels that the city and state have not done nearly enough to consider the impacts of casinos on the adjacent communities.
"Dealing with these impacts will take tens of millions of dollars, and given that no significant funds have been earmarked for that, a dedicated community share of table-game tax revenue would be a good start," he said. "So I support the legislators who are urging that some table game tax revenue be directed to local communities."
Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting that Gov. Ed Rendell said today he's confident the two houses will agree on a bill prior to Jan. 8, and if they don't, he will have to lay off at least 1,000 state employees, close state parks and cut grants to museums, universities and hospitals.
The state projects the table games bill, if passed, would generate enough state revenue to avoid these cuts.