|Deserted by both the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor, groups opposing slot machines at Pennsylvania horse-racing tracks are mounting a grass-roots attack. |
Anti-gambling organizations such as No Dice in the Pittsburgh area - joined by similar groups in Philadelphia, Erie, the Poconos and elsewhere - are issuing fliers urging voters to contact their state legislators to fight the so-called 'racino' measure, which could come up for consideration in Harrisburg as early as November.
In a recent mailing to over 600 supporters in Western Pennsylvania, No Dice President Evan Stoddard asked them 'to be part of a network of citizens that will work to protect Pennsylvania's families and preserve its communities by keeping slot machines and casinos out.'
Stoddard, associate dean of liberal arts at Duquesne University, spurred the group 'to speak up loudly and in large numbers to keep the General Assembly from passing any pro-gambling bills.'
No Dice is being aided by a statewide umbrella organization opposing further legalized gambling. Named Pennsylvanians Against Gambling Expansion, it plans to run radio ads against the slot machine concept.
The threat of legalizing up to 3,000 slot machines at each of the state's racetracks 'is a front-burner issue now,' said Michael Geer of PAGE.
State Rep. Paul Clymer, a Republican from Bucks County near Philadelphia and a strong opponent of further legalized gambling, said he feared that a slot-machine bill could arise shortly after the November 5 election.
'There are a number of legislators on both sides of the aisle who will work vigorously against any proposal to create gambling casinos or 'racinos,' as tracks with slot machines are sometimes called,' he said.
He claims that, after the legalization of slot machines at Pennsylvania tracks, national riverboat casinos, slot machines at off-track betting parlors, or video poker machines in bars could follow.
'I don't want to see Pennsylvania become a mecca for gambling,' Clymer said.
State Rep. Tom Petrone, a Pittsburgh Democrat, is hoping his bill, which would permit up to 2,000 slot machines at each of the state's racetracks, will be acted on when the Legislature returns for a three-week session in November.
If the slot machine issue doesn't arise in November, it's likely to appear next year in Harrisburg, due to support from the new governor and from lagging state revenues from existing taxes.
'No matter who is elected governor, we can expect a massive push to legalize slot machines and other forms of casino gambling in Pennsylvania as early as this fall,' Stoddard said.