Pennsylvania gaming fund goes astray

Dec 28, 2015 5:29 PM

A Pennsylvania fund that was created to help eliminate illegal competition to the state’s casinos has, instead, been drained into other areas by the legislature.

Severe limitations on the use of money in the fund was blamed by law enforcement officials for their lack of interest. As one official told a member of the news media, illegal drugs and not illegal slot machines were his priority.

The Legislature established the fund in the 2004 law that legalized casinos. Since the law became active in 2007 gambling revenues have generated $27 million for the fund.

The original law limited grants to a total of $5 million a year, and the money could be used only to combat illegal slot machines. Records from the Gaming Control Board show the closest law enforcement ever came to reaching that upper grant limit was $1.2 million spent in 2008. In all, local agencies spent a total of just over $5 million since the program’s inception eight years ago, records show.

State lawmakers took most of the money in 2010 and 2014, transferring unused amounts of $12.5 million and $8 million, respectively, into the state’s general fund, Gaming Control Board spokesman Doug Harbach said.

Law enforcement agencies that applied or considered applying for grants under the law found the restrictions too onerous to make the money useful, according to the newspaper investigation that disclosed the apparent failure of the fund as a useful crime fighting tool.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: [email protected].