HARRISBURG - House Democratic leaders yesterday delayed a scheduled vote to legalize table games at slots parlors while they tried to round up support for the bill.
"It became clear that members on both sides of the aisle felt they needed more time to review the content of this amendment," said Brett Marcy, spokesman for House Majority Leader Todd Eachus (D., Luzerne).
"In the spirit of transparency and accountability, we agreed to postpone action on this legislation to allow members the time they need to digest the language of the amendment."
The House is scheduled to meet for only four days more before the holiday break, and gambling supporters are trying to win swift passage of the legislation to add table games at slots parlors. Supporters say new taxes and fees that casinos would pay would fill a nearly $250 million hole in the state budget, adopted in October.
In addition, the bill's passage would clear the way for approving $730 million in funding for museums, hospitals, and state-related colleges, including Pennsylvania State, Temple, and Lincoln Universities. Gov. Rendell said that allocation hinges on approval of table-games revenue.
Republicans yesterday accused the Democrats of trying to suspend the House rules to rush through the table-games measure, which is being considered as an amendment.
"We do not support suspending the rules to fast-track gaming," said Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Minority Leader Sam Smith (R., Jefferson). "It's mind-boggling."
House Democrats denied the accusation, saying adequate time was given to consider the bill, although at least one key provision - to add two resort casino licenses - was removed late yesterday.
"We want to get this done to finalize the budget and create jobs," said Marcy, adding the House might take up the bill as early as today. "The Republicans can focus on process if they want. We want to get this done right."
The measure still requires Senate approval before it can become law.
"At this point, there is not an agreed-to amendment between the Senate and the House," said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware). "If the House passes the bill this week, we will review it in detail after seeing which amendments, if any, are adopted by the House."
A point of contention had been whether to add two licenses for resort casinos. Rep. Dante Santoni (D., Berks), chairman of the gaming oversight committee, said the plan for the extra licenses was dropped at the Senate's request.
Now the focus likely will be on the amount of taxes that would be levied on table-game revenue - now 14 percent for the state and 1 percent each for municipalities and for counties where the casinos are located - and the number of slots and table games permitted at casino resorts.
Gov. Rendell has said he would not sign a table-games bill with a tax rate of less than 16 percent.