HARRISBURG - Gov. Ed Rendell signed a major expansion of gambling into law Thursday, but he did so voicing misgivings that the table-games legislation includes special earmarks for colleges, hospitals and other local projects.

Without signaling out any earmarks by name, the governor said the bill is laden with pork and "WAMs," a slang term for funding going to lawmakers' pet projects.

Rendell signed the table-games legislation privately at his desk in the Capitol, eschewing a public bill-signing ceremony.

The governor told reporters the anticipated $250 million in first-year revenue from table games at the state's casinos is necessary to balance the 2009-10 state budget. He said it prevents an alternative scenario where 1,000 state employees would have been furloughed and new cuts made to state education, development and social programs to make up for the $250 million shortfall through other means.

"People of Pennsylvania should breathe a deep sigh of relief today - but no sense of celebration," added Rendell.

The new law provides a local share of table-games revenue estimated at $600,000 annually from Mount Airy Casino Resort in Monroe County for the Commonwealth Medical College and to expand the Tannersville campus of Northampton County Community College.

Other beneficiaries of local table games earmarks include community colleges in Chester and Erie Counties, a hospital in Bucks County, libraries in Allegheny County and development and water projects in Montgomery County.

Residents of Northeast Pennsylvania will benefit from the funds going to the medical school and community college, said Sen. Robert Mellow, D-22, Peckville, who helped win passage of the measure.

Contact the writer: rswift@timesshamrock.com