Municipalities have been in a quandary since Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the creation of ten “mini-casinos” in the Commonwealth.
The state essentially gave municipalities less than 60 days to decide if they wanted to create a resolution that would bar such gambling institutions in their borough or township.
Ford City Solicitor Alyssa Golfieri attempted to explain to Council that if they did not pass the resolution, essentially a licensed agent could come into Ford City and they would have no ability to control where that facility would locate under the current codes.
“This resolution gives control to Ford City rather than the State having the control,” she said. “It is all a matter about control.”
Ford City grappled last night with a resolution that would prohibit the placement and operation of a Category 4 licensed facility within the Borough. When the initial vote was taken, Council members Kathy Bartuccio, Tyson Klukan, and Marc Mantini voted against the resolution that would maintain control within the Borough. Councilwomen Beth Bowser and Carol Fenyes voted in favor of the resolution. Councilman Ray Klukan was not in attendance. The motion to adopt the resolution failed by a 3-2 vote.
Several citizens were frustrated that the majority of Council would “give away control” to a future entity.
Golfieri clarified the law, stating the anytime in the future, the Borough could rescind the resolution and allow a casino to be established in Ford City. She said that it did not restrict future councils.
Bartuccio then asked the Solicitor if she could change her vote. She said the resolution was not clear as to its meaning.
“I brought it back up because it was very unclear the way the resolution would go, whether they could come into the Borough and us have no control or not,” she said following the meeting. “That’s what I wanted to vote for all along – for us to have control. We need that.”
In order for Bartuccio to change her vote, there had to be a vote taken to rescind the original vote, and another motion to vote again on the resolution. This time, Bartuccio voted in favor of the resolution and it passed 3-2 to applause from the audience.
Mantini made several statements during the discussion, saying he favored not prohibiting in any way to casinos. He also suggested the possibility of utilizing the Allegheny River for boat gambling, although the Legislative Act stated a mini-casino would consist of a minimum of 300 machines and 50 table games. Bowser retorted that the only property available for construction of such a building would be the old PPG brownfield property, which is not available for that type of structure due to contamination beneath the surface the prohibits laying an underground foundation.
Tyson Klukan was the only council member that chose to remain silent on the issue. The media attempted to obtain an interview with him following the meeting, but he skirted the attempts, exiting the building. An individual who wished to not be identified said Klukan did not want to respond since he could be in conflict in his employment with the county’s industrial development group.
An unofficial poll of various municipalities show that only Worthington has approved the same resolution as Ford City. North Buffalo Township debated the issued for over a half-hour before deciding to not pass a resolution that would guarantee them control in the future. One last meeting for the year will be held on Wednesday, December 20th when supervisors could decide to make any changes.
It was not even brought up for discussion at East Franklin Township’s meeting. Zoning Office Greg McKelvey explained.
“I don’t anticipate the Township putting together an ordinance prohibiting (a mini-casino) based on our conversations at the Planning Commission level that we had. We understand the potential pros and cons of this type of an industry. If a licensed business would happen to be interested in East Franklin Township, we will speak to them the way we would any other business entity.”
Kittanning Borough brought it up, but it was dismissed with little discussion. Solicitor Ty Heller said he was not totally clear on the legislation and did not give direction to Council.
Manor Township discussed it briefly before deciding to not institute a resolution. Supervisors said they did not see a license being used for Armstrong County. They felt the placement would go to a municipality with greater access, such as along an interstate.
Municipalities have until December 31, 2017 to decide if they wish to create a resolution to prohibit it. If created, it can be changed in the future. If not created, the municipality loses the ability to control future placement of the ten licensed mini-casinos.