Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Legislature Considers Shifting Gaming Investigative Duties

Pennsylvania’s acting Attorney General supports a bill moving an investigative unit from the Gaming Control Board to his department, but tells lawmakers the transition would be difficult.

The measure, which has passed the House, would move the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement (BIE) into the Attorney General’s office. The unit conducts background checks on casino license applicants, among other duties.

Acting AG Bill Ryan told the Senate Appropriations Committee it makes sense to move BIE to his department or the State Police, but conceded the switch would take time and cost money. “To me, and this is my opinion, it would best be done from the ground up,” he said. “I honestly don’t know, Senator, if we could just graft what’s there to our office. I see a lot of issues that could be problematical if that was done.”

The Gaming Control Board says the transition would cost 2 million dollars. Sponsor Mike Vereb, a Republican, is skeptical of the estimate. “They are saying that’s because of computer systems and hardware,” he said. “Let it be known that there is no independent assessment of how much this would cost. We’d have to cut bureaucracy out, and one would think that if we couldn’t cut that at least in half, we could eliminate a better part of it.”

Meantime, confirmation hearings for Ryan’s potential successor, Linda Kelly, will likely be held in April. A vote could come in April or May, according to Senate Republican spokesman Erik Arneson. Kelly needs the support of 2/3 of lawmakers to be confirmed.

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