Pennsylvania’s Gambling Watchdog May Face Investigation for Allegedly Meeting with Casino Lobbyists Secretly

Pennsylvania's Gambling Watchdog May Face Investigation for Allegedly Meeting with Casino Lobbyists SecretlyThe Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board may become the target of an investigation for allegedly holding secret meetings with casino lobbyists. Two Pennsylvania lawmakers, State Sen. Gene Yaw, and State Rep. Jared Solomon, have requested the probe after a story published by the media agency Spotlight PA revealed that top officials met with casino lobbyists and did not disclose details about the meeting on public logs as required by the regulatory agency’s ethics rules.

State Sen. Gene Yaw and state Rep. Jared Solomon have requested the state attorney general’s office and the state Ethics Commission to examine the gaming board’s actions and determine whether or not they comply with the law. In a letter to the state Ethics Commission, Solomon stated that people deserve to trust the regulatory bodies established by the Legislature and believe in their integrity. Unfortunately, it is still unclear whether or not lawmakers’ requests for an investigation will be taken seriously.

Richard McGarvey, a spokesperson for the Gaming Control Board, said that the agency had not received the letters regarding the lawmakers’ inquiry into its dealings with the casino lobbyists and refrained from commenting on the matter. Another spokesperson previously told Spotlight PA that the agency acted in accordance with the law as far as their dealings with these lobbyists are concerned.

The state attorney general’s office could not comment due to ongoing litigation involving skill games. Mary Fox, the state Ethics Commission’s executive director, said she could not provide information regarding any investigations into the state Gaming Control Board.

Some Pennsylvania Casinos Launch Campaigns against Skill Games

Earlier this year, Spotlight PA reported that lobbyists for Parx Casino in Bucks County pushed the regulator to change its stance against skill games through the backdoor. Skill games have become increasingly popular over the past decade. Unlike slot machines, which are regulated and taxed by the Gaming Control Board, skill games remain unregulated.

This resulted in many casino executives and lobbyists launching campaigns in a bid to convince state officials and the public that skill games should be banned. In 2019, members of the Gaming Control Board reportedly backed a lawsuit seeking to ban skill games after a private meeting with lobbyists.

There are two publicly available logs on the Gaming Control Board’s website, and both of them have not been updated for a decade or even more. The Gaming Control Board’s lawyers explained that the meeting did not cover the requirements for public disclosure.

In a letter to the state attorney general’s office, Yaw stated that the Pennsylvania State Police and the gambling regulator have taken a more negative stance regarding skill games over the past five years. He also claimed that the number of skill games that the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement of the State Police has seized from businesses all over the state has dramatically increased.

In March this year, the company that has developed the software for most skill games in Pennsylvania, Pace-O-Matic, filed a lawsuit against the Gaming Control Board and Pennsylvania Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, accusing the two authorities of targeting its business. Meanwhile, unlicensed skill games continue to gain popularity in Pennsylvania, existing in a legal gray area.