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Pennsylvania Gambling & Casinos

A day at the races will have a whole new meaning for the folks in Pennsylvania. While there is no casino gambling to be had in the keystone state unless one travels to Atlantic City, plans are underway to open slot parlors and “racinos” throughout Pennsylvania starting in 2006. Although these parlors aren’t exactly casinos in that they won’t offer table games, they will offer those who love the clink of coins in the little silver tray an opportunity to take on the slots.

Pennsylvania Racinos and Slot parlors, which will include traditional slots and video poker slots, will open in Pennsylvania’s four horseracing tracks and some of those race tracks are already making big plans to take advantage of the new gambling attraction they’ll soon be offering to visitors. One Pennsylvania racetrack wants to take the casino plan a step further than just adding slot machines around the track. It wants to build a whole gambling and entertainment facility right on its grounds. The proposed plans include 2000 slot machines, a huge kid’s entertainment space offering video games and small rides, bars, lounges, restaurants and more. Although lodging facilities for visitors are nearby, the racetrack is considering building its own hotel.

Besides the slots at the racetracks, slot parlors are expected to open in two of the state’s big cities: Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and two other locations not-yet-determined. Plus, two hotels will also be given licenses to open slot parlors as long as they have at least 275 rooms. These proposals have already created excitement for state hotels who are hoping to increase their revenues by offering slots gaming and some of these hotels, like the horse racing tracks, are creating plans to expand their properties to entice visitors not to visit just for the slots gambling but for the other amenities that will turn their hotel into a gambling resort. Overall, slot parlors will be for some, a welcome addition, to what Pennsylvania currently offers in the form of gambling: bingo, horse racing, lottery, telephone wagering and off-track betting.

As the name suggest, slot parlors will only offer a variety of slot machine games. Not all the games are of the cherry or 777 kind, as games can include video poker, keno and other slot machines like Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and others. These slot variances offer players a break from the regular. While slot parlors aren’t high-end casinos, slot parlors can be high-end in their own regard depending on how the owners of the parlor choose to decorate. Slot parlors can also include food and drink service and provides a community where players can not only play the machines but meet new friends as well.

Casino gambling regulation is relatively new to Pennsylvania although attempts have been made for the past 30 years to allow land-based and riverboat casinos in the state. Finally, last year, in 2004, the Pennsylvania legislature passed into law Act 71, or what some call “the new slot law”, which opened the door for slot parlors to operate in the state. The state then formed a gaming board to manage the regulations of these “casinos.” Act 71 will allow 61,000 slot machines – second only to Nevada - to be placed in 14 venues throughout the state. Besides being allowed in the state’s current racetracks, plans are underway to allow parlors to open in four additional horse racing tracks that are planned for Pennsylvania.

Legislators who are looking forward to slot parlors and racinos in Pennsylvania hope that these simple games of chance are just the beginning of gambling expansion in the state. Many state officials believe that Pennsylvania will be adding table games such as poker, roulette, craps and blackjack to the casinos and slot parlors within the next seven years. While playing the slots will attract the occasional gambler (especially the slot tournament lovers), offering a wider variety of games will attract a wider variety of gamblers. Officials hope his will increase the state’s expected gambling revenue. In fact, some legislators are betting that at least some of the areas expected to open slot parlors will attract visitors from other states.

Like nearly all states but three in the US, Pennsylvania is hoping that opening gambling venues will help close the gap on budget shortfalls that seem to face the state each year. Every state in the US except for Utah, Tennessee and Hawaii offer some sort of casino gambling to assist with generating revenue and only Utah and Hawaii ban gambling completly. Currently, gambling revenue in Pennsylvania comes only from horse racing and the Pennsylvania lottery. With the addition of slot casinos, legislators are estimating that property owners in the state will be able to reduce their property taxes by nearly 20%. Legislators also believe that having slots in Pennsylvania will help the sagging horse racing industry and bring back to the state some of the money it’s been losing to surrounding states that have casinos. And they’re estimating that these new gambling attractions will bring about $3 billion in revenue of which the state will receive about 34 percent.

While there are many who are excited and are looking forward to slots gambling in Pennsylvania, there are just as many who are opposed to having slots or any type of gambling in the state. The opponents believe that slots gambling won’t increase tourism or tourism dollars and point to various states such as Joliet, Illinois where casinos thrive but the surrounding communities fail not only in bringing in tourism but in revitalizing the area that the casino was supposed to support. They argue that the only dollars that the state will see are the dollars from its own residents citing that most players will be from Pennsylvania and will be putting only Pennsylvania dollars into the state’s coffers. Opponents also argue that bringing casino gambling to Pennsylvania will result in an increase of crime, domestic violence, bankruptcy, debt, gambling addiction and other detriments to Pennsylvania society.

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