Penn Senate Finalizes Bill in Slots Middlemen Dispute

The Pennsylvania state Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would abolish a requirement that slot-machine manufacturers use in-state middlemen to sell their equipment to Pennsylvania gambling casinos. However, the Republican-penned bill also carried a Democratic-sponsored amendment that would help pay for casino gambling related law enforcement costs increasing the state’s tax on the operators of the state’s casino slots parlors.

The bill passed 29-21, largely on the strength of Republicans, who have criticized the distributor requirement in the state’s 2004 slot-machine gambling law as an intrusion into the gambling industry intended to benefit well-connected businessmen. Democrats defended the distributor requirements as a way to create job opportunities for small businesses in Pennsylvania.

But the provision to raise taxes on slots revenues 4 percent is sure to complicate the bill’s prospects in the House, particularly with the 52 percent base tax rate on slots revenues already criticized the industry as high.

Casino Gambling Funds from Gulf Coast to Cover Insurance

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Two lawmakers are proposing a stream of money, generated taking a portion of the growth in Mississippi casino gambling revenue, to hold down homeowner insurance rates on the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. Earlier this year, the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association, commonly known as the wind pool, requested a rate increase of 400 percent as a result of the devastation caused in August Hurricane Katrina.

In an effort to reduce the amount of the increase needed the wind pool, Gov. Haley Barbour set aside $50 million of the federal Community Development Block Grants funds awarded to the state for hurricane recovery. While the block grant funds will hold down the size of the needed increase for the wind pool, it is not clear what amount. Insurance Commissioner George Dale has not yet acted on the rate increase request.