You don’t have to be a genius to recognize that special interests are affecting the legislative process in Pennsylvania, because the signs are everywhere. Like in this Post-Gazette story, in which it was reported that a gambling company in Pennsylvania could own an interest in every casino in the state if it wants. Harrah’s is one company that is mentioned in the story as potentially benefiting from this rule.
The potential for conflicts of interest that are enabled by such lax rules makes you wonder why they even have a state Gaming Control Board. As I reported recently, lobbyists are doing their business with very little oversight in this state. Out of all the gaming companies that had lobbyists working for them in 2003-2004 in Pennsylvania, Harrah’s had the most lobbyists on the payroll. Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., and Harrah’s Operating Co. had (and presumably still have) a combined force of twenty registered lobbyists working for them. Is it any wonder that Harrah’s might benefit from a Gaming Control Board ruling that is favorable to gaming companies, but which could hurt thoroughbred racetracks?
Here are some telling figures from the aforementioned lobbyist story:
“In 2003-2004, lobbyists in Pennsylvania were representing at least 14 different companies that may have an interest in gambling, including Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, which has one lobbyist working on its behalf; Ameristar, which has three lobbyists registered; and Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., and Harrah’s Operating Co., which have 19 lobbyists, and one lobbyist, respectively. Other gaming interests with lobbyists in Pennsylvania include WMS Gaming, with six lobbyists; Sands Pa., Inc., and The Venetian Resort Hotel (both now under the Sands name, with 13 lobbyists in total); Oberthur Gaming Technologies, a Canadian lottery ticket company with seven lobbyists; and Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc., which has six lobbyists. Twelve lobbyists in Pennsylvania represent Forest City Development, which hopes to build a casino in the South Side of Pittsburgh. MTR Gaming, which also wants to build a casino in western Pennsylvania, employs 19 lobbyists to deal with the state Senate. The Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, which would like to re-establish itself as a sports-gaming company by owning and operating a Pittsburgh-area casino, employs ten lobbyists.Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which wants to build a casino in the Hays section of Pittsburgh, has five lobbyists. Philadelphia Park Racetrack, which is vying for a Philadelphia-area slots license, has seven lobbyists. Boyd Gaming Corporation, a Las Vegas-based company that owns casinos, employs 17 lobbyists dealing with the Pennsylvania Senate.”