Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Act Quickly on Slots Issue

On April 26, 2007, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court declined to fast track the verdict regarding the slots decision, which may have ended any chance of putting closure on the issue before the voters in Philadelphia vote on May 15, 2007, according to the critics of the slots plan.

The City Council’s attorney is more optimistic, commenting that the court could still decide on a vote, provided that it removes its preliminary injunction which does not allow any ballot referendum regarding the slots issue.

The Pennsylvania City Council commented that a schedule like that will automatically ban the slots questions from making it to the ballot because of a requirement that a vote should be publicly advertised 3 weeks prior to the ballot.

The City Council has petitioned the court to change some of their injunctions to fast track the schedule or allow the city to inform the public about the slots question, which will be without effect if it never reaches the ballot. In a one page decision which did not state any clear reason, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to change their original stand.

Both the Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia and SugarHouse Casino, have each been awarded a slots license by the state to construct a slots facility alongside the Delaware River, backed the injunction to not allow the slots referendum, which would effectively ask the voters to place the slots casinos in industrial locations.

Casino critics and the residents of the chosen sites of Foxwoods in South Philadelphia and the SugarHouse casino in Fishtown complained that they have no voice in the matter. Casino-Free Philadelphia, the main supporter of the referendum, commented that they are not expecting the Supreme Court to suddenly rule in their favor. The referendum will ask the voters whether the casinos should be constructed 1,500 ft. from homes, schools or churches.

If allowed, the referendum will effectively overrule the December 20, 2006 decision of the Pennsylvania State Gaming Control Board to give slots licenses to Foxwoods and SugarHouse. Both the Pennsylvania Gaming Board and the casinos said that the referendum will be detrimental to their plans as it will prevent them from earning fully.

The move to stop the casinos in the state will likely continue in the near future, regardless of what the final decision is on the slots referendum. The state Supreme Court still has to review the appeal regarding the slots decision of the gaming board.

If the appeal is successful, the competition for the slots licenses will start again. DiCicco has proposed several laws that would effectively restrict casino construction in the area and the city has to approve the zoning modifications to permit the Foxwoods and SugarHouse Casino to be constructed on their chosen sites.

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