Auditor General: Gaming Control Board needs more self control with expenses

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – They are the lucky 7.

They didn’t strike it rich in one of Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos, but they did hit it big when they were appointed to oversee the gaming industry.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board members earn $145,000 a year.

And, according to Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (D), they enjoy an overly generous expense account that’s two-and-a-half times that of a rank-and-file employee.

In an audit between 2013-15, one board member (they are intentionally not named in the report) racked up nearly $30,000 in expenses. Another board member was reimbursed more than $26,000.

“A Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board staff member traveling to Pittsburgh on business has a daily food allowance of $71,” DePasquale said at a news conference Wednesday at the Capitol. “A board member doing the exact same trip is allotted $177.50 for meals. That does not sound reasonable to me.”

DePasquale called the double-standard in reimbursement policy “reprehensible.”

The auditor general did commend Gaming Control for its cooperation with his auditors and said there have been improvements since his predecessor, Jack Wagner, did an audit in 2010. Board spokesman Doug Harbach said member expenses are down and a big reason why is transparency.

“With the knowledge that every expense they have is on our website, they’re certainly making sure that the expenses they have are reasonable,” Harbach said.

But DePasquale notes that choosing not to run up expenses is not the same thing as putting a policy in place to prevent it.

“Just because you’re within the law doesn’t make this right,” he said of excessive expenses.

The audit also noted that before table games were legalized, an industry-funded study promised lawmakers they’d generate 10,000 new jobs. In reality, that number is 6,100 though two casinos are still not up and running. DePasquale says it’s a cautionary tale for a legislature currently considering expanded gaming and being promised the moon.

“It’s not saying new jobs would not be created, but there needs to be a more thorough analysis as to what would actually be created and how much revenue would be created as opposed to just wishing it. Wishing it is not a plan.”

Harbach says Gaming Control has about 300 employees and a $30 million annual budget. But, he says, it is not funded by taxpayers. Casinos, after they pay taxes, also kick in the money that funds the Gaming Control Board’s operations.

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