HARRISBURG, Pa. (Legal Newsline) - A Pennsylvania House committee has approved a bill that would move the state agency in charge of overlooking gaming background checks to the state's Attorney General's Office.
The House Gaming Oversight Committee on Tuesday voted 17-8 on House Bill 262, which would transfer responsibility for gambling-related investigations and casino regulatory enforcement to the office from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, proposed the legislation that would move the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement. Vereb has said the Attorney General's Office is more equipped to handle such investigations, pointing to its ability to access criminal background information.
Those on the gaming board have said the move isn't necessary.
Another proponent of the bill, Rep. Curt Schroder, R-Chester, said in a statement Tuesday that the move will go a long way in restoring integrity and public trust in the state's gambling industry.
"This legislation is essential to the overall integrity of the state's gambling industry," Schroder said.
"If the investigatory and law enforcement body had been independent of the Gaming Control Board when the Gaming Act was passed in 2004, many of the problems we have had could have been avoided."
At a public hearing on Monday, Schroder's committee heard testimony from Dauphin County First Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo, who sat on the grand jury case investigating allegations of mob ties to Mount Airy Casino operator Louis DeNaples.
In his testimony, Chardo cited numerous examples in which the BIE had been ordered by PGCB officials to change its investigatory reports, which enabled DeNaples to obtain a casino license.
"With investigations and enforcement in the hands of the state's chief law enforcement officer, Pennsylvania citizens can be assured that the proper checks and balances will be in place, and there will be a more transparent licensing and regulatory process," Schroder said.
The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.