Gambling

Gaming expansion revenue plan sharply divides Philly Dems

PA Sen. Larry Farnese is flanked by former PA Sen. Vince Fumo, L, and 39th District Ward Leader Matty Myers – photo by Wendell Douglas

PA Sen. Larry Farnese is flanked by former PA Sen. Vince Fumo, L, and 39th District Ward Leader Matty Myers – photo by Wendell Douglas

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney spent the night in Harrisburg earlier this week. The reason: He was on a mission to impress upon Senate leadership the impact of the state budget on Pennsylvania’s largest city. Informational meetings like these are routine around state budget deadlines, but capital sources said Kenney also made clear his opposition to bills that would massively expand video gambling and alter the disbursement of casino revenues in Philadelphia.

That latter item was floated by Kenney’s fellow Philly Democrat, state Sen. Larry Farnese.

Farnese and a group of other Philly state senators had sought to insert language into a pending bill that would increase Philadelphia casino revenues paid out to the city’s benefit to $10 million annually. But the language would also shear off $2 million in new revenues to the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development for nonspecific “economic development” and “revitalization projects” in Philly.

Kenney’s office took issue with passing off such a substantial chunk of the new funds to a politicized state agency that resides outside of the municipality’s direct control.

“This revenue should be allocated directly to the city for basic services such as police and fire protection, sanitation and public health. To force these funds to be channeled through DCED takes control out of the hands of Philadelphians for whom this revenue is intended,” said mayoral spokesperson Mike Dunn.

The larger gaming bill is currently in limbo as House and Senate Republican leaders continue to spar over competing visions of the legislation, which has fissured both parties. The lower chamber recently took out certain local share provisions, including Farnese’s tweaks, while inserting a dramatic expansion of video gambling that faces mixed support in the Senate.

Despite the changes, Kenney nevertheless met with the senator yesterday morning to underscore his concerns. Farnese said he was blindsided.

“I didn’t get the impression they (the Kenney administration) were opposed to it,” he said, of authoring the initial language. “The fact that they may be opposed to it now, I appreciate that. They came in this morning and made their position clear.”

Casinos are required by state law to return some slot machine revenues to their host communities, known as a “local share assessment.” But courts invalidated these initial provisions last year, forcing legislators to craft a new arrangement.

Some, like Farnese, have seized the opportunity to make “improvements” to the previous system. Philly is unique in splitting $7 million in revenues it currently receives from the SugarHouse Casino between the school district and the city’s general fund – the current breakdown is $5 million to the district, $2 million to the fund. 

The senator said that his changes would bring the city more in line with the system featured in other counties, which kick their local share towards economic development projects.

While Farnese underscored that “anyone” (including the city and school district) could apply for a cut of the new DCED funds. But the agency also has a history of being guided by the whims of state lawmakers, it’s grants sometimes informally referred to as “walking around money” or “WAMs” by pols.

The senator countered that the city’s budget was no more transparent than the DCED.

“(Kenney) wanted to put all the money back into the general fund. Well, we don’t know how the general fund money is used,” he said. “I think it’s curious that the city isn’t asking to increase the share that goes to the school district. They just want to know when they get their money.”

Kenney’s staffers say that while they continue to have concerns, the mayor will wait to see a final version of the legislation before acting further.

“The administration is monitoring the progress of this legislation as it moves through both chambers, and we continue to be interested in working with members on both sides of the aisle toward a resolution that will be positive for the city and school district,” Dunn said.

Meanwhile, top City Hall sources continued to chatter about the proposal, saying it sounded like a plan out of the playbook of Farnese’s predecessor, disgraced state Sen. Vince Fumo.

Fumo, now a political consultant, was an architect of an early 2000s bill legalizing slots in the commonwealth, using his influence to ensure that two Philadelphia casino licenses landed squarely in the Senate district Farnese now controls. Fumo was later jailed over a string of corruption charges that detailed his steering of funds to a pet nonprofit through the DCED. The former state senator’s protégés, including Kenney, would ultimately help position Farnese as a successor

Fumo and Farnese have kept in touch – both men were photographed together during a Farnese fundraiser at the posh Waterworks restaurant last Wednesday. But Farnese flatly denied that Fumo had any sway over his decision-making, insisting that the language was taken whole cloth from an earlier proposal he floated, in 2009. Fumo did not respond to requests for comment.

“I see Senator Fumo when he’s out walking around the city,” Farnese said. “I was out to lunch two weeks ago on Friday and I saw him...But he’s not telling me what to do with the gaming act.” 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.