The Pittsburgh Penguins have become the latest sports franchise to hold the state of PA hostage so they wouldn’t have to get their own financing for a new arena. Today, Gov. Ed Rendell announced a deal that would keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh. The Penguins had threatened to leave to Kansas City, MO if they could not secure a new arena when their lease with the 40 year old Melon Center expires at the end of this hockey season. In this new deal, the Penguins will get help from PA slot parlor revenue.
A Pennsylvania law signed last year allowed for a certain number of slot parlors to be built in the state. A percentage of the revenue from the slot machines will go towards reducing property taxes. Another portion of the revenue is slated for other economic stimulus projects. However, there is absolutely no evidence that a stadium provides any sort of economic boost. In fact, studies have shown that, on average, they reduce workers’ incomes by $47 per year. Further more, a 2004 study showed that teams never need help in financing the stadiums. The stadium generate enough revenue to cover construction costs and more.
People can try to spin this, saying that it’s slot machine money and not taxes that will go towards financing the arena. I contend that with Pennsylvanians looking down the barrell of a 1% increase in the state sales tax and other ills such as our crumbling transportation infrastructure and our awful inner city crime rate, the slot machine revenue could be put to better use than helping to keep hockey, a second-rate sport, in Pittsburgh. I also contend that slot machines are just another tax, one that disproportionately affects the poor – you don’t see people with a lot of money habitually gambling at slot parlors.
Lastly, Mario Lemieux completely disrespected the people who paid money to watch him play for the Penguins during his career. The Penguins have some of the best attendance figures in hockey, and it’s a sham that he would even consider giving up standing room only crowds 17,000 strong to play rent free in front of 7,000 “fans”.