After almost two months, the state House is scheduled to begin deliberation today on legislation to add table games at slot parlors and pump $200 million into the state budget.
A final vote could take place by late tomorrow, said Bob Caton, spokesman for House Speaker Keith McCall (D., Carbon).
Three points of contention remain in the legislation: the amount of taxes that would be levied on table-game revenue; the creation of additional gaming licenses for resorts; and the number of slots and table games permitted at casino resorts.
The tax rates the House is expected to place on table-games revenues would be 14 percent for the state, 1 percent each for the municipalities and counties where the slots and table-game casinos are located.
Gov. Rendell said last month that he would not sign a table-games bill with a tax rate less than 16 percent. He said that rate is needed to generate $200 million to help balance this year's state budget, which he signed Oct. 9.
Since then, competing tax rates ranging from 16 percent to 34 percent have been considered by members of the Senate and House. McCall has been pushing for the higher rate.
Another change would be in licensing fees. The House plan calls for a slightly higher one-time fee of $16.5 million, up from $15 million, for a casino operator to add table games.
Under the House measure, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board would be authorized to grant licenses to two additional resort casinos, bringing their number from from two to four.
Caton said that operators of resort facilities in Gettysburg and Reading have expressed interest in obtaining a casino resort license.
He said the House Democratic and Republican caucuses began considering the measure yesterday. "The goal is to have the bill passed by the full House before the end of the day Wednesday," he said.
From there, the bill would head to the Senate.
"It's certainly a good sign that the House is ready to take up the bill," said Rendell spokesman Gary Tuma. "We're hopeful we can get the process through both chambers. We certainly need to get the table-games bill resolved to complete the budget process and obtain the revenue we need."
Once the table-games legislation has been enacted, lawmakers are expected to move to other unfinished business, including approving $730 million in funding for museums, hospitals, and "state-related" colleges.
The colleges impacted include Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, Lincoln University, and the University of Pittsburgh.