A small group of local state legislators just wrapped up a City Hall news conference, where they defended pending legislation that would put the state and not the city in charge of a "local share" of taxes on table games at two casinos in Philadelphia.  State Rep. Mike O'Brien, whose district includes the SugarHouse casino being built in Fishtown, disputed claims he has heard that this amounts to a "grab" of the tax money by legislators.

Mayor Nutter wants the local share of table games taxes to flow directly into the city's general fund.  PhillyClout hears Nutter has been calling legislators, lobbying against the section of the legislation that would put DCED in charge of the city's local share.

The pending legislation says half the money would go to government agencies and non-profits city-wide for "education, child welfare services, crime prevention, health care clinics, workforce development and the arts."  The other half would be used for "community improvement projects, heath and safety projects and public interest projects" for businesses and non-profits within 1.5 miles of the two casinos.

O'Brien and state Sen. Larry Farnese estimated that SugarHouse and Foxwoods, a casino proposed for South Philly, would generate about $3.6 million per year at the proposed 2 percent rate for local share taxes if they each operated with 100 table games, which include craps, blackjack and poker.

They, along with state Representatives Babette Josephs and Curtis Thomas, repeatedly emphasized that the local share measure is designed to protect communities near the casinos.  As legislators, they would have considerable influence with DCED about the agencies, non-profits and businesses applying for grants.

The legislation passed in the Senate next week but won't be taken up by the House until Jan. 5.  The House could vote to approve it, reject it and set up a conference committee to work with the Senate or amend the legislation.  O'Brien predicted that the legislation will be amended, which he believes will destabilize the voting block of House Democrats needed to approve the measure.

Gov. Rendell has insisted that the Senate and House deliver legislation for him to sign into law by Jan. 8 to plug a $250 million gap in the state budget or he will furlough 1,000 state employees.