Slots in the City: A Critical Look at the Balance of Decision-Making Power in Gaming Legislation

By Becker, Eric B. | Fordham Urban Law Journal, October 2008 | Go to article overview

Slots in the City: A Critical Look at the Balance of Decision-Making Power in Gaming Legislation


Becker, Eric B., Fordham Urban Law Journal


Introduction
   I. Gaming
      A. The History of Gaming in America
      B. The Modern Era: Casino Gaming
         1. Voter Approval of Gaming-Enabling
            Legislation
         2. Local Involvement in the Casino Licensing
            Process
  II. Local Government
      A. Principles of Local Government in America
      B. Local Involvement and Control
         1. Local Participation in the Political Process
         2. Local Expertise
      C. Regionalism and the Drawbacks of Local
         Control
III. Who Should Decide If, Where, and How We
     Gamble?
     A. States Motives for Controlling the Gaming-Enabling
        Process
     B. Local Ramifications of Casino Gaming
        1. Social Problems
        2. Economic Transformation
        3. Land Use
 IV. Case Studies
     A. Pennsylvania Case Study
        1. Background
        2. The Pennsylvania Race Horse Development
           and Gaming Act
        3. The Hearing Process for the Philadelphia
           Slots Licenses
        4. The Aftermath
     B. Detroit
        1. The Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue
           Act
        2. Local Control: The Development
           Agreement
        3. The Casino Era in Detroit
V. Comparing the Gaming-Enabling Process in
   Philadelphia and Detroit
   A. Mode of Legalization
   B. Local Involvement in the Licensing Process
Conclusion

INTRODUCTION

The last twenty years have seen a dramatic rise in commercial gambling across the United States. One by one, states have enacted gaming-enabling legislation in an effort to promote economic development and increase tax revenue from formerly illegal activities. Recently, legislators have begun to tap into major metropolitan markets by licensing casinos in closer proximity to highly populated areas, and even in some of the nation's largest cities. Many politicians and businessmen view gaming as a powerful economic and tourism development tool. The bright lights, ringing bells, and the prospect of large winnings all contribute to the allure of casino gambling. Unfortunately, some patrons experience the negative effects attendant to gambling. Additionally, as an industry notorious for illicit behavior, gambling must be heavily regulated to best balance the intended benefits with the wide variety of potential side-effects.

These issues can become increasingly complex when gaming proponents seek to place casinos in urban areas. For the past few years, the casino issue has proven highly controversial in Philadelphia. After Pennsylvania State Legislators decided that the City of Brotherly Love would play host to two slot machine parlors, by passing the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, the process has been anything but smooth. Many citizens groups and local politicians have expressed grave concern over having casinos in Philadelphia and have tried to create a role for local government in regulating gaming. Over four years later, casino developers have yet to break ground in Philadelphia. So far, few new jobs have been created, and only attorneys and the Justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have seen an increase in the demand for their labor. A host of lawsuits have indefinitely delayed the process of building casinos in Philadelphia. Many of these problems could have been avoided if Philadelphians had been given an opportunity to participate in the matter. At a minimum, local actors could have been able to voice their opinions on gaming and the two casinos intended for the city.

This Note focuses on the ability of local governmental bodies and local actors to become involved when a state seeks to introduce casino-based gaming or license additional casino properties. Traditionally, states retain the power to make most gaming-related decisions, sometimes only allowing simple "yes or no" voter referenda. This Note argues that an increased role for local actors in bringing gaming to cities will best protect the interests of the people most affected by casinos. …

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