Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lawmaker Calls Gaming Board "Incompetent"

State Senator Jane Orie of McCandless says the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is "incompetent" and beholden to political interests. That's why she says Don Barden was granted Pittsburgh's casino license despite his history of financial problems. Now Barden is seeking to transfer the license to a new ownership group.

Orie and fellow State Senator Vince Fumo are proposing several changes to the way the Gaming Control Board operates. They want to make board members full-time employees, and bar them from earning any outside income. Board members would also have to be confirmed by a 2/3 majority in the Senate. Currently, they are appointed by the governor and legislative caucuses.

Another amendment would bar casino applicants from borrowing the $50 million license fee. Orie says that would have put Barden out of contention. Licensees would also be required to that would allow construction work at casino sites to continue even in the event of financial problems. Construction of the Pittsburgh casino is currently on hold.

Orie and Fumo are also proposing that more documents relating to the licenses be made public. And they want to prevent gaming lobbyists from making political contributions. Gaming license holders are already barred from making those gifts, but Orie says a loophole allows them to funnel payments through lobbyists.

The Gaming Control Board is meeting Thursday in Harrisburg to decide whether to transfer the Pittsburgh casino license to a new ownership group led by Neil Bluhm of Chicago.

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