Otherwise known as the gaming act, Act 71 —and please, pay attention to these details — had a more- than-able architect in Sen. Vince Fumo, who essentially wrote the legislation that ultimately would mandate two slots parlors for Philadelphia and exert state control over nearly every aspect of their creation, from siting and zoning to design.
Fast forward, three years. That same senator, who once pointed out that the only criterion that mattered in siting the casinos would be which sites made the most money — is now fashioning himself as a semi-sort-of casino-opponent. He just joined a lawsuit with six other state legislators to prevent construction of SugarHouse.
State Reps. William Keller and John Taylor, Fumo and three others have a beef with the city's gall in challenging the state's "sovereignty" by granting the right to underwater land — "riparian rights" — to SugarHouse casino so it can begin building its slots parlor.
The state believes it alone can grant those rights. But it has done nothing to pass the law required to do so. The city said it found a legal loophole that enabled it to grant rights.
So now the state lawmakers have filed a lawsuit to stop SugarHouse from building. In the process, they are spinning this legal wrangle into a holy fight on behalf of the neighborhoods that have protested the casinos from from the get-go.
Which is head-spinning, since all of them voted for the original casino legislation. And Fumo's "readjustment" of his position on casinos is particularly head-spinning.
Meanwhile, though, the bickering and legal wrangling over who has the power over casinos is proof plenty that this state doesn't have the capacity to handle something as complicated as gambling.
Maybe it's time to repeal Act 71. *