06/22/2005 11:00PM

Pa. court favors slots law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld nearly all of the provisions in a slot-machine gambling bill that would legalize 61,000 machines at 14 sites in the state, turning back a challenge by an anti-gambling group.

The ruling rejected arguments from the group that the bill legalizing the machines violated the state's constitution on several grounds, and it removed a major hurdle to the development of casinos at seven racetracks and another seven stand-alone sites.

The Pennsylvania legislature passed the 145-page slot-machine bill in the summer of 2004, at the urging of Gov. Ed Rendell. Even with Wednesday's ruling, the establishment of casinos in Pennsylvania is expected to take at least another 18 months.

The ruling came just three weeks after 80 percent of Pennsylvania's 501 school boards rejected plans to use slot-machine revenue to fund property-tax rebates, jeopardizing the state's plans to distribute that revenue. In the Wednesday ruling, the court did strike down other aspects of the enabling law, including one to allow the state to override local planning boards in determining where casinos could be located.