Friday, March 9, 2007

Gambling in Pennsylvania

Oh the perils of a new blog. I'd made a mental note when I started writing this blog that I'd make a point of putting up links to any stories I do that air nationally. The story I'm working on right now won't air for a couple of weeks, but it just occurred to me that a story I finished a few weeks ago is online now.

You have to scroll down the page a bit to find my story, but here's a recent piece I did on expanded gambling in Pennsylvania. It's part of an hour-long discussion of gambling on NPR's Justice Talking.

I spent a fair amount of time pulling this piece together, conducting several more interviews than I was able to fit into the 5 minute piece. I probably could have conducted a few dozen more and made my piece into a full hour show in its own right. Few things will impact life in certain parts of Pennsylvania over the next few years more than legalized slot machine gambling.

Philadelphia may eventually be home to two casinos, making it the largest municipality in the country to have gambling within city limits. But my story is situated in Bensalem, PA -- about 20 miles outside of Philly.

The most interesting thing about this piece for me though, was the fact that Bensalem already had a gambling facility. Philadelphia Park Racetrack has operated in Bensalem for the last 30 years, allowing residents to place bets on the horses. But most of the people I spoke to see horse racing and slot machines as completely different activities, drawing completely different crowds.

Many local jobs rely on the horse racing industry. And many racetracks in neighboring states have added slot machines in recent years, allowing the operations to raise more money and share some of it with the trainers, jockeys, and owners.

While there have been petition drives, protests, and contentious public hearings over plans to bring slot machines to Philadelphia, there really wasn't much noise made at all in Bensalem. I did find a couple of local ministers who were willing to talk about the negative aspects of gambling and the impact it could have on their community. And their concerns seem valid. Thing is, not a lot of people seem to be listening to them.

Anyway, if I ramble on too much longer there won't be any reason for you to listen to the story. So if you have a second to listen, please let me know what you think.

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