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Karcher/Buono Bill Would Prohibit Legislative Ownership Of Casinos

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Ellen Karcher and Barbara Buono that would prohibit the Governor, Legislators and members of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority from owning any interest in a casino or their holding or intermediary companies received committee approval today.

“When the conflict of interest laws with relation to the casinos were passed in 1981, the gaming industry was just starting,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex and Chair of the Senate Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee. “At that time, less than 1% ownership wouldn’t have been that much of an investment. Now that the casinos are billion dollar companies, owning just 1% of their stock can equal millions of dollars. That kind of financial investment would clearly lead to a conflict of interest in voting on matters regulating the industry.”

Senator Buono’s bill, S-2168, amends the “Conflicts of Interest Law,” by adding an ownership prohibition to the definition of “interest” in concerning casinos and the gaming industry. Under current law no State officer or employee, or any member of their immediate family, may hold an interest in a casino or their parent companies. Currently “interest” is defined as “more than 1% ownership”. This bill changes that definition to owning any part of a casino or holding company, no matter how small.

“Questions about the propriety of the recent Pennsylvania law allowing their legislators to own a 1% share of Pennsylvania’s new slot parlors led us to reexamine our own laws,” said Senator Karcher, D-Mercer and Monmouth and Vice Chair of the Senate Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee. “In an industry as highly regulated as the casino industry, it is essential that those individuals who regulate it are never seen as acting in their own financial best interest. By prohibiting any ownership of the casinos by the Governor, the Legislature or the CRDA, we help to further bolster that needed impartiality.”

The bill passed the Senate Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee by a vote of 4-0. It now goes onto the full Senate for their approval.

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