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In the face of various challenges, state and city officials continue to move forward with plans for the installation of slot machines in up to 14 locations around Pennsylvania.

A lawsuit -- argued last week before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court -- was brought by a group called Pennsylvanians Against Gambling Expansion.

PAGE challenges the constitutionality of the legislation based on the argument that the bill covers more than one subject, according to PAGE attorney James West.

Gary Tuma, a spokesman for state senator Vince Fumo (D-Phila.), said that the suit -- even if successful -- will likely have little effect on the Pennsylvania gaming industry. Tuma said the bill could easily be passed again, since it had already been approved, and the re-creation of related agencies could quickly follow.

The bigger obstacle remains starting a currently nonexistent industry which will ultimately control the second-largest collection of slot machines in the United States.

"The challenge before the board is always going to be trying to get a completely new industry off the ground and do it very carefully," Tuma said.

Philadelphia officials share the same task on a smaller level -- trying to assess the impact of a currently nonexistent industry on one of the nation's largest cities.

To address this problem, Mayor John Street recently created the Gaming Advisory Task Force. In addition to Street, three co-chairs are in charge of assessing the potential impact of gaming in the city as well as identifying potential sites. Ultimately, the commonwealth will decide the location of each slot parlor.

Management professor Ber-nard Anderson is in charge of assessing the economic impact of slot machines in the city.

"What will happen in Philadelphia is unprecedented with respect to the nature of gaming, the kind of facilities there will be and how much revenue they will produce," Anderson said. "There is no urban area in which slot machines only have been put in place."

"If you look at major urban areas, there are only two that now have gaming," Anderson added, referring to Detroit and New Orleans.

As a result, city officials must work hard to gather as much information as possible to attempt to predict a post-slot-machine Philadelphia with some accuracy.

"Right now the main obstacle that we have is just getting all of the information," said Shawn Fordham, Street's senior adviser. "As we do that, we'll start seeing where our true concerns are."

Street gave the task force -- which started its work about three weeks ago -- 90 days to deliver its preliminary report. A more detailed analysis will follow after six months. The report will include input from Philadelphia residents.

"The people in this city deserve to have their opportunity to express their views about this," Anderson said. "Whatever happens in the city is going to affect everybody."

Philadelphia hopes to see revenue-generating slot parlors in the city by 2007, generating $7.5 million in the first year, $20 million in 2008 and $25 million per year thereafter -- to help alleviate the wage tax and fund the Pennsylvania Convention Center, located on Market Street. Other slot parlors in the state will be used to reduce the property tax.

The commonwealth's Gaming Control Board is involved in a similar fact-finding mission that led it to Las Vegas, Atlantic City and other areas with legalized gambling.

"The board met for the first time in December, and its primary objective at this point is to develop the regulatory framework for bringing expanded gaming to the commonwealth while ... assembling a staff to operate its agency," said Nick Hays, a spokesman for the Gaming Control Board.

"They are in the process of drafting the regulations that will govern the licensing and operations of gaming equipment, suppliers and manufacturers which is one part of the overall regulatory scheme."

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