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games for Pennsylvania track racinos passed a major test yesterday in the house, winning a narrow 97-95 vote of approval, mainly on straight party-line voting.


As passed, with democrats voting 'yes' and republicans 'no,' the measure also increases the number of casinos to 15 from the present 14, a move that could doom the bill in a final senate-house vote.


Unless extended, the legislative session comes to a close tomorrow for a long holiday recess, and is not scheduled to resume until January 25.


As passed in the narrow house vote, the bill sets a $16.5 million license fee for track racinos, with an initial tax rate of 16% -- 14% to the state and 1% each to the county and municipality where the racino is located until 2011, when it would drop to 14%, with 12% to the state. The 16% tax was included because of a threat by Gov. Rendell to veto the bill if it did not include one at least that high.


Some legislators of both parties objected to lack of time to study the 649-page measure, but faced with another six-week delay if not passed before adjournment, and the wrath of voters who are fuming at the legislature holding Pennsylvania colleges and universities hostage with the bill, a bare majority was scratched out.


(Harness Tracks of America)