HARRISBURG, JANUARY 5, 2010 – Calling it a good way to create jobs, boost the economy and generate badly revenues, state Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) today praised the Senate’s final passage of the conference committee agreement that would allow table games at existing casinos.

“While this bill (Senate Bill 711) is not perfect, it is a good compromise that will help the state’s casino industry remain competitive, and help inject the substantial revenues necessary to fill the state’s budget gap and fund struggling area programs such as libraries,” Fontana said.

The Brookline Democrat, who represented Senate Democrats on the conference committee, thanked other area lawmakers for working together to insist that a portion of gaming proceeds be used to fund libraries in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Under the agreement, 85 percent of Allegheny County’s local share of proceeds would be distributed to the Allegheny County Library Association. The city’s local share would be earmarked for distribution to Carnegie Library. If the Carnegie Library does not maintain its branch libraries, then the funding would go to the city to fund the accrued liability of its pension plans.

Fontana reiterated that legalizing table games at existing casinos would inject an estimated $903 million annually into the state’s economy and generate over 10,000 new jobs. He added that the industry spurs spin-off economic benefits for local hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.

Licensees would be required to pay for a table games license as well as a tax on their earnings.

He noted that in just two years, Pennsylvania’s gaming industry, which doesn’t even have all of its casinos up and running yet, generated over $1.2 billion for general property tax relief. He said hundreds of millions of more dollars in proceeds were generated for expanding senior citizen programs and investing in economic development projects.

The Brookline Democrat added that legalizing table games would be particularly beneficial to western Pennsylvania casinos located in Pittsburgh (Rivers Casino) and Washington County (Meadows) that are currently competing at a disadvantage with nearby West Virginia casinos that already offer table games.

The Senate passed the bill 28 to 22. The House is expected to act on the measure tomorrow.

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