Sen. Vincent J. Fumo

District Office

1208 Tasker Street
Phila, PA 19148

Harrisburg Office

545 Main Capitol
Hbg, PA 17120



"IN THE NEWS" is a digest of some recent news media items that mention Sen. Vincent Fumo


The following guest opinion editorial was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Harrisburg Patriot-News, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette between August 22 and September 2, 2003.

By Sen. Robert Mellow and Sen. Vincent Fumo

When something fails to get done on time in Harrisburg, most people usually point to "politics" as the culprit. That’s been the conventional wisdom this year concerning the slot machine gambling legislation, which the General Assembly has yet to approve.

This time, however, that’s a misconception. What has halted the gambling bill so far, and has cast its future into doubt, is greed.

The House and the Senate have both passed different versions of bills that would legalize slot machines at a limited number of venues, and both did so with bipartisan cooperation. So "politics" in the usual sense is not the problem.

Instead, a frenzy of unbridled business speculation that was unleashed upon the state when a slots bill was introduced has overwhelmed the legislative process. The alleged purposes of legalizing slot machines in Pennsylvania – to rescue the horse racing industry and to raise money for residential property tax cuts – has been lost amid the lobbying of track owners. Their gold rush mentality has prevented adoption of a system of gambling that protects the public interest.

We would have a slot machine gambling law on the books already in Pennsylvania if track owners had agreed to some of the same fundamental regulatory safeguards that are already in place in other states where gambling is legal.

Rather than accept the principle of strong state regulatory control and anti-corruption measures, track owners have spent the spring and summer tirelessly trying to weaken or eliminate public safeguards. We find that unacceptable. We would rather not pass any slot machine legislation than produce a bad bill.

Foes and proponents may debate whether or not slot machines have a corrosive effect on society, but we would hope that everyone would agree that if we are going to legalize gambling, strong state regulatory control is vital to ensure its integrity, and to provide proper return of revenue to the Commonwealth.

West Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey serve as good examples of responsible state oversight. At a minimum, necessary public safeguards are: a prohibition against the sale or transfer of gaming license without state approval; thorough character and financial background checks of slot license applicants; a prohibition against public officials having a financial interest in a slot operation; prevention of a "revolving door" of gaming regulators immediately going to work for the gaming industry; daily transmission of machine revenue to the state; a central control system that permits remote disabling of slot machines if a problem arises; and a ban on political campaign contributions from slot operators.

We insisted on those provisions in the Senate. Unfortunately, the bill changed by the time it emerged from the House of Representatives.

Each and every one of those basic public protections has been adopted in other states and has been upheld in courts. Despite most track owners operating under these regulatory controls in other jurisdictions, they are now attempting to remove these protections and create loopholes in Pennsylvania.

Problems can and do occur with gambling. As recently as last year, Michigan fined a slot machine operator for software defects on machines. Illinois had to shut down 1,600 machines when it was discovered players could receive free credits by jamming the intake system.

Whether these were unintentional flaws or purposeful corruption, weak state regulation can only be a tempting invitation to bigger problems.

While the original notion behind the introduction of slots legislation was to boost Pennsylvania’s existing horse racing tracks, many have lost sight of the simple fact that there are currently only four operating horse tracks in the state. Once it appeared to speculators that a slots bill might be considered, there was a stampede of people seeking to gain new horse track licenses for the sole purpose of being eligible to receive a slot license. There had not been a single new horse track application filed in Pennsylvania in at least the previous 20 years.

This sudden interest in track licenses clearly has little to do with improving horse racing and everything to do with slot operations, and would in fact be detrimental to racing.

If nine horse tracks were permitted to operate in the state, Pennsylvania might have a horse-track-to-population ratio greater than any place in the world. Nine tracks would require an estimated 13,000 different race-quality horses – adversely impacting the supply and quality of race horses in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The expansion of venues for slot operations should only be done in a manner that maximizes revenue for property tax relief. Not only is the random placement of slot parlors, determined by horse racing commissions, contrary to the public’s financial interest, but it expands horse racing beyond what is sustainable. If we are to increase the number of slot venues to raise money for property tax reduction, then they should be placed where they are most likely to generate this revenue, not allocated to horse tracks not yet existing.

Although we favor legalizing a limited number of slot parlors and would like to see the proceeds used to reduce property taxes, we are not so desperate for slots revenue that we will support a bill that lacks public safeguards and could potentially hurt rather than help the horse racing industry. While no one likes raising taxes, a modest increase in the sales or personal income tax could provide the level of property tax cuts that Gov. Rendell has promised the people of Pennsylvania.

Until all track owners end their efforts to weaken the regulatory authority of the Commonwealth over slot operations and support important safeguards, and there is a unified commitment by all of the stakeholders to work in the best interest of the public, the slots bill will continue to languish.

And that is not a bad thing.


The following story appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, April 21, 2003:

Fumo would bar pol donations from gambling interests


The businessmen lining up for gambling licenses in Pennsylvania should be barred from making political contributions - or they could overwhelm the state's political system with their new-found wealth, according to state Sen. Vincent Fumo.

"We've never had this kind of cash cow in Pennsylvania," the Philadelphia Democrat told the Daily News. "There is so much money involved, whoever ultimately gets the various gambling licenses...will be able to exert enormous influence over the Legislature and local officials as well."

"...We have to be very cautious about the potential for corruption in an industry like this."

Gov. Rendell and many state lawmakers, including Fumo, are backing proposals to permit slot machines at Pennsylvania race tracks.

With 35 percent of the profits lined up for the state treasury, the Rendell administration estimates the plan would raise $300 million in the budget year starting July 1.

If the estimate is on target, it means that the owners of 12 racing licenses would share roughly $600 million in profits every year - likely more in future years, since the first year will face unusual start-up delays and expenses.

Already, big-time political donors are bidding for racing licenses.

In eastern Pennsylvania, a group led by Republican fund-raiser Manny Stamatakis is trying to get a license for a new harness-racing track at the old Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. His group includes paving czar Peter DePaul, who's donated hundreds of thousands to politicians in both parties, and has reached out for more investors, including Lewis Katz, a major fund-raiser for Democratic candidates.

Two Indiana businessmen who'd never previously been involved in Pennsylvania politics donated $120,000 last year to Rendell and a political action committee led by two Rendell associates. They're hoping to build a harness-racing track in Beaver County, northwest of Pittsburgh. Their proposed developer, the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, is chaired by Ron Rubin; one of Rubin's partnerships has donated $245,000 to Rendell alone over the past three years.

Besides slots at the race tracks, different factions in the Legislature are also promoting riverboat casinos and electronic Keno - a cross between Bingo and the lottery - in Pennsylvania bars.

Fumo said he generally supports the expansion of gambling inside the state. But any groups that get major licenses should be prohibited from future campaign donations, he said.

"I've received a lot of money from these guys [people interested in gambling licenses] myself," Fumo said. "They're writing checks like they never wrote before. But this is one issue where I'll put on a white hat that will glisten in the sun like a mirror...I want to make sure that once we pass the law, it will have really good restrictions and good ethical standards."

A Daily News analysis shows that Fumo has received at least $68,350 in gambling-related contributions over the last two years. The figure includes donations from racetrack licensees and applicants, their law firms and lobbyists, and out-of-state casino interests.

Overall, gambling-related interests have poured more than $2.2 million into Pennsylvania politics the last two years, the Daily News found. More than $800,000 of it went to Rendell.


The following Letter to the Editor from Sen. Fumo appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News on April 3, 2002:



ELMER SMITH can't possibly be as obtuse as his mocking March 29 column about my wage-tax proposal made him appear. So I guess there's only one explanation - intellectual dishonesty.

How else to explain his noting that the Economy League, the city controller, the Bar Association, the Chamber of Commerce, his own newspaper and even Smith himself believe we must cut the wage tax, but when I want to cut it, well, that's just Vince Fumo playing politics?

How else to explain his implication that I just wrote my tax-cut legislation without considering how we would replace the lost revenue, when in fact he had a copy of my detailed five-year plan.

How else to explain his suggestion that the state should keep out of city tax affairs, when he knows that the Philadelphia wage tax is a state creation.

Smith finds it "laughable" that I see a problem to be solved. Other people see the same problem, but Smith accuses only me of a sky-is-falling attitude toward the city's financial situation. He apparently thinks it's no big deal that Philadelphia has lost jobs at a rate of about 2.5 percent for a decade while the rest of the state has gained jobs at more than 11 percent.

Smith wants me forget all that and leave city tax matters to "the City Council members and mayor you elected."

Well, the people of a large portion of Philadelphia elected me, too, and as a state official, I have some responsibility for the economic health of Pennsylvania. (Plus, unlike Smith, I actually live in this state.)

The wage tax has a detrimental effect not just on the city, but on the whole region. As long as I'm around, I'm going to be involved in efforts to change that.

State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo


The following Letter to the Editor from Sen. Fumo appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News on March 26, 2002:

Sen. Fumo: I told you so

ELMER SMITH'S column (March 20) correctly ridiculed Rep. John Perzel's sham plan to provide $45 million for the Philadelphia School District from excess Parking Authority revenues.

Smith pointed out that the $45 million simply isn't there, and that Perzel's hiring of more patronage employees means that the small amount of "extra" Parking Authority funds will not be available for the schools, either.

In the column, however, a spokesman for Perzel said my claim that the state takeover of the Parking Authority was always about patronage and never about children as an "outrageous lie."

The fact is, I said on the day the bill passed that the $45 million was an illusion, and that the legislation was nothing more than a patronage grab.

Anyone doubting that can check the Senate Journal of June 13, 2001. Or, if you prefer, you can read my remarks from the debate on my Web site. Go to, click on Floor Speeches, then on the item from June 13 about the Parking Authority takeover.

One final point to keep in mind. An essential co-conspirator in Perzel's plan was the governor at the time, Tom Ridge.

He had to agree to sign the legislation that Perzel railroaded through the Legislature. Without his cooperation, the bill could never have been enacted. And before his signing, I provided documentation showing that, at most, $3 million might be available for schools.

So accurate data was available. Still, Ridge chose to participate in this hoax.

(signed) State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo

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From, May 7, 2001
Excerpt from a Q&A with Former State Senator Frank Pecora:

CAPITOLWIRE.COM: You ever sorry you switched parties?

PECORA: I think it was a definitely a good thing I did. The Republican leadership at that time was very bad. The news media always attacked Vince Fumo, because he got up and argued. There's a guy who amazed me. When I came into the Senate I had a derogatory opinion of Vince Fumo because of the news media. But when you bypassed his attitude and looked at his knowledge, this guy was sharp. Republicans were in control and Vince Fumo was doing the budget.

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Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo