FUMO, ORIE PROPOSE REVISIONS TO
HARRISBURG, August 12, 2008 – Two state Senators have developed bipartisan
legislation that would make several important amendments to Pennsylvania’s 2004
slot machine gambling law, including prohibiting outside income by Gaming
Control Board members, expanding the prohibition on campaign contributions from
casino interests, and increasing public disclosure of previously confidential
information supplied by license applicants.
Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia) and Jane C. Orie
(R-Allegheny) plan to introduce the bill in time for it to be considered when
the Senate returns to session in September. Fumo was an early supporter of
legalizing slot machines and was one of the chief authors of the legislation to
do so. Orie opposed the expansion of gambling in the state.
“We disagreed on the overall public policy merits of
the legalizing slots, but we agree now that the experience of the past several
years compels us to make changes,” Orie said.
“The past two years have highlighted several
unintentional deficiencies of the existing law. We created a new industry in
this state and adopted the best practices that we could find from other states,
but the law was not perfect and we can improve upon it,” Fumo said.
The proposed legislation would make Gaming Control
Board members full time, and ineligible for outside income. They are already
paid a salary reflective of the full-time nature of the position – $150,000 per
year for the chairman and $145,000 for the other six members.
Fumo and Orie said the intensity and complexity of the
work argue for it being a full-time job, and the need to prevent actual or
perceived conflicts of interest suggests a need for prohibiting outside
Another key provision would clarify the limited nature
of confidentiality of information about license applicants. Although the
existing Gaming Act contains a narrow definition of confidential information,
the Board has taken a very broad interpretation of this provision and has deemed
all information provided by an applicant to be confidential. This bill would
open up all information that is not specifically designated as confidential,
such as trade secrets or personal medical and financial data about applicants.
Fumo and Orie also propose to eliminate the section of
the law that gives jurisdiction over all slots license appeals and slots-related
zoning appeals directly to the Supreme Court. Intended to expedite appeals that
may have delayed the opening of the casinos, it has had the effect of
eliminating the important appellate record that is typically created at the
Commonwealth Court level.
Another measure within the bill expands the ban on
campaign contributions from licensed casino operators to those who have
registered with the Gaming Board as “licensed casino representatives.” This
would prevent casino operators from making contributions indirectly through paid
“All of these provisions would create greater public
confidence in Pennsylvania’s Gaming Act and Gaming Control Board,” Orie said.
“That confidence has been shaken recently, and we must restore the complete
integrity of the process in the public eye.”
The bill would also require the two casinos licensed
for Philadelphia to obtain authorization from the General Assembly, and to
compensate the taxpayers of Pennsylvania, for the use of public land before they
are allowed to commence gambling operations. Currently, the two licensed casinos
plan construction on land that is partially within the river bed of the Delaware
River. To date, they have not sought a grant of these riparian rights from the
Among the other amendments in the Fumo/Orie proposal,
the bill would:
• require a two-third Senate confirmation of all future
members of the Gaming Board.
• require oral hearings with the right of cross
examination for all matters before the Board.
• prevent an applicant from borrowing the initial $50
million license fee and require a surety bond from the licensee when the
licensee is also the developer of the project.
• require disclosure and posting on the Internet of
information concerning the true identity of the controlling interest in a gaming
• require the board to adopt regulations, in addition
to those already in place, maintaining the separation of prosecutorial and
• authorize and encourage the Board to seek the advice
of the Ethics Commission and the Attorney General on ethics and related issues.
• prohibit Gaming Board officials from gaining
employment in gaming related fields for two years.
“We have learned a lot in the four years since we
passed the original law. We have casinos that are running smoothly and have been
very successful in generating revenue that is reducing taxes for our citizens.
But we have also encountered some problems, and it is critical that we correct
them now while Pennsylvania’s gaming industry is still young,” Fumo said.
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