Just when some legislators are trying to expand casino gambling in Pennsylvania, others want to tighten the laws that regulate the industry.
The Post-Gazette is all for tightening. The first group of lawmakers is acting without taking time to gauge the impact of all of the state's slots casinos on people and local economies. Since only the first eight casinos are open, how can anyone know what the impact of all 14 will be?
The other legislators are closing ranks around Senate Bill 711, a measure offered by Republican Jane Earll of Erie and approved in committee last week. Some of the key provisions are sound, including a ban on members of the state Gaming Control Board holding outside jobs; a two-year wait before ex-board employees may go to work for the gambling industry and a prohibition on licenses going to a person convicted of a felony, no matter how old the crime.
Two elements give us pause. One would exempt state gaming control employees and gaming-related workers of the Revenue Department, state police and attorney general from furlough due to a state budget impasse. Gaming regulators should be laid off along with other state employees, even if it means shutting down the casinos. What better way to turn up the heat on Harrisburg for a budget settlement?
Our other objection regards the marquee provision -- a ban on contributions by gambling industry officials to political candidates. While casino proponents have given plenty, excessive contributions go to politicians from individuals or political action committees representing a host of special interests -- trial lawyers, labor unions, business groups and advocates for social causes.
The Legislature should impose strict caps, as the federal government does, on all political contributions -- not just those from a targeted industry. If lawmakers are subject to influence by big checks from pro-gambling forces, then what about all that dough from polluters, doctors and the insurance industry?