Gaming bill would allow for expansion in Erie –

State Senate passes key legislation and waits on House as budget stalemate continues.

Ed Palattella @ETNPalattella

Pennsylvania lawmakers worked to break the state’s 117-day budget deadlock on Wednesday night as the Senate passed a bill to expand casino-style gambling to raise as much as $200 million — legislation that would directly affect Erie County.

The House was expected to debate the bill into the night Wednesday and vote on it Thursday, House Majority David Reed, R-Indiana County, said on the House floor at about 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The 470-page gaming bill, House Bill 271, would, among other things, allow Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Summit Township to expand in Erie County, and it would allocate $1 million of the $11 million of Erie County’s casino revenue to create a land bank to fight blight.

The $1 million would come from the share of gaming revenue that now goes to the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority, which would continue to exist.

The bill, if it passes the House and becomes law, would:

• Allow Presque Isle Downs & Casino to build, in Erie County, one of the 10 new satellite casinos approved in the bill. Existing casino operators would bid on the satellite casinos, and would be prohibited from building a satellite casino within 25 miles of another existing casino.

However, the bill would allow a winning bidder to build a satellite casino within 25 miles of the winning bidder’s facility — a provision that would let Presque Isle Downs & Casino expand in Erie County.

“They have the ability to build a satellite casino,” said state Sen. Dan Laughlin, of Millcreek Township, R-49th Dist., who voted for the bill and said he could envision a satellite casino built somewhere on Erie’s bayfront or lakefront.

He said no competing

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