'Walking around money' linked to table games bill
Monday, December 21st, 2009
A bill to let Pennsylvania casinos offer table games also seeks to revive an old Harrisburg tradition known as "walking around money."
For years, Pennsylvania lawmakers funneled small grants to groups and institutions inside their districts, with no outside review. These grants, known as walking around money or WAMs, dried up in recent tight budget years.
Now, some lawmakers hope table games can reopen the spigot. The bill to bring poker, blackjack and roulette to casinos includes clauses that target grants to places such as a medical school in Scranton and a community hospital in Bucks.
Eric Epstein is coordinator of RockTheCapital.org a reform group in Harrisburg. He says this return to old habits in Harrisburg is disappointing.
Epstein: You know when you look at them the projects tend to be worthwhile. It's just the process and the problem with the process is the money is not accessible to other communities.
The bill would impose a 16% state tax on table-game revenues. Governor Ed Rendell says if the bill is not approved by January 8, the loss of revenue will force more layoffs of state workers.