- The march to slots in Pennsylvania marches on like a steamroller, but one stubborn gambling opponent is still fighting on. Rep. Paul Clymer has introduced a bill for repeal of the law, known as Act 71, which at this point seems about as useful as a bill in Congress prohibiting wars of choice in the middle east. But even Clymer realizes that his cause has long been lost, and the move is really intended to force changes in the law such as a repeal of the provision that allows elected officials to own up to 1% of a casino, a law that is so self-serving and subject to conflict that you have to wonder how it was possibly could have been approved in the first place.
However, some legislators are still trying to gain an edge; one Republican amendment would allow “discounted” rates on rooms and food for public officials, currently prohibited by law.
"This proposed change certainly opens the door to public officials receiving travel, meals, rooms and entertainment for as little as a nominal fee of $1. We are concerned," said Christopher Craig, an aide to Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, and one of the authors of Act 71. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]While a legitimate matter of concern, the issue seems trivial in light of the exposé published by the Philadelphia Inquirer last weekend which revealed that slots license-seekers donated more than $1 million to politicians over the last two years, including over $175,000 donated to Gov Ed Rendell. He was the biggest beneficiary of gambling money, drawing checks from seven groups that are now up for a slots license.
[House Minority Leader Bill] DeWeese received at least $68,971 in the last two years. House Speaker John M. Perzel (R., Phila.) raked in $56,500, and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert C. Jubelirer (R., Blair), who was opposed to gambling, received $10,300.The prospect of competing against applicants perceived as being well-connected via their donations has discouraged at least one prospective applicant from even bothering.
Even Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann, who along the campaign trail has criticized gambling, received a $100,000 check last year from [slots applicant Maggie] Magerko.
Rendell, Jubelirer, Perzel and DeWeese do not have a vote on who gets a license. But they all have appointments to the gaming board, which will make the final decision.
Jack Kalins, president of Mountain Laurel Resort & Spa and Split Rock Resort, isn't convinced that money and politics can be divorced from the decision making.Act 71 actually prohibits such donations from slots applicants; but since applications weren’t actually due until this past December, the loophole was bigger than the oval at Philly Park. Now that the applications are all filed, I guess they’ll have to make do without such contributions, right? Well, not so fast. Another proposed amendment would allow contributions from casino executives to resume, as long as the giver is from outside the state. I guess this flow of money is as addictive as the gambling itself.
Kalins said he believed his venues in the Poconos didn't have a chance against politically connected applicants from the southwestern part of the state.
"Everyone we talked to said: 'Jack, don't waste your money. Give it to the church..'"