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In Pennsylvania slots flap, tax cut, not politics, is key

July 25, 2006

"There's many a slip between the cup and the lip" is an expression that has been around in one form or another for the past 500 years.

But though it may be an old adage, it's a good description of the tribulations Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has faced in trying to get slot machines legalized.

We recommend that legislators go along with the governor's fix for the latest problem, or face the possibility that they'll be blamed when the property tax relief slots were designed to fund doesn't materialize.

The latest snag arose last week, when it was revealed that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board was running out of funds and might have to lay off employees and close up shop.

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The Associated Press (AP) reported that the agency's money troubles gave new hope to gambling opponents who want to repeal the two-year-old law.

And the AP quoted political observers who said that it may become an election issue if GOP challenger Lynn Swann comes out in opposition to slots, a position he's hinted he might take.

For his part, Rendell wants to transfer $10.4 million to the agency so it can continue working on the planned Sept. 7 opening of the first slot machine parlors.

The legislature and Swann say that can't happen without lawmakers' approval.

But as we noted in late June, opposition at this stage would be a huge gamble. Rendell has promised that the new law will reduce property-tax bills by an average of 17 percent.

He could easily tell voters that the lawmakers who gave themselves a midnight pay raise want to deny voters the tax relief he has promised.

That said, we share State Treasurer Bob Casey's concern about why the gaming board has run out of funds. If the transfer is completed, it should be accompanied by additional scrutiny of the board's finances.

To delay implementation of slots because of this problem would be unwise, however. Getting to this point has been the legislative equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. Does anyone really believe that at this point it would be best to start the climb all over?

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