A bill changing the way casino license applicants are screened has passed the Pennsylvania House 126-72 and is moving to the Senate.
The measure eliminates the Gaming Control Board’s investigative unit, and shifts its responsibilities to the Attorney General’s office.
Many Democrats argued the change would add politics to the investigative process. “Many of my constituents to not believe that the Attorney General’s office is, in fact, nonpartisan or bipartisan,” said Representative Margo Davidson of Delaware County, alluding to the AG’s investigation of petition fraud by Congressman Patrick Meehan’s campaign. Some Democrats have argued the investigation was less than thorough, due to the fact Meehan is Republican.
The bill’s author, Republican Mike Vereb, responded by pointing out Gaming Board members are all appointed by lawmakers or the governor. “We elect our courts, we elect our governor, we elect our Attorney General. The State Police Commissioner is appointed by the governor. At some point, someone who’s elected has a role in making sure these units operate,” he said
The change would cost $2 million, which many Democrats say the state can’t afford. Republican supporters point out the money comes from gambling revenue, and not the state’s general fund, and Majority Leader Mike Turzai of Allegheny County questioned the figure’s validity.
Republican Senator Jane Earll of Erie has said she opposes the shift. She chairs the Senate’s Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, which oversees gambling. Turzai insisted he’s confident the bill can still move forward. “We’re going to be prioritizing legislation for both houses to look at, and our relationship with the Senate leadership and their team, I think, is very very good. And I think any proposal gets an opportunity to be heard and voted on by the House is certainly something that everybody will take a look at,” he told reporters.