Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
Here’s the Gaming Control Board’s response to today’s stinging Grand Jury report, which, it’s worth clearly pointing out, did NOT charge anyone with any crimes.
The Chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board today said a report released by the 31st Investigating Statewide Grand Jury critical of the early practices of the Board is simply a rehash of "old news" at a significant cost to taxpayers.
Chairman Greg Fajt says the Board spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply with demands by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office including over 4,000 man-hours to recover and produce over 2.7 million pages of documents over the last two plus years. He says all of this effort ultimately failed to prove any wrongdoing by the Board or its employees.
"The Board has steadfastly and repeatedly said that we did our work well, we have protected the public, and the citizens of Pennsylvania are reaping tremendous dividends from our work," Fajt said. "After this grand jury met for more than 2 years, there were no arrests, no presentments, no indictments. They found no criminal activity because there was, in fact, no criminal activity to be found."
Fajt says the report offered today by the grand jury presented little more than what has been reported in news stories and, in the end, suggests steps for improvement, many of which the Board has already undertaken.
The PGCB was the first newly created state agency in 30 years and, Fajt says, was given a mandate to license up to 14 casinos in an accelerated timeframe. He says that meant the original Board was charged with swiftly finding qualified staff and office space, writing and approving regulations, and conducting investigations on tens of thousands of individuals and business entities.
"Given the huge task the first Board members were asked to undertake, the PGCB has been an unmitigated success and is nationally recognized as a leader in gaming regulation. Clearly, as with any new organization, there were minor missteps along the way, none of which affected the final judgments and integrity of the Board. But, the Board learned from those and improved its processes," he says. "Our BIE unit has completed over 40,000 investigations and this report calls into question only a handful of those. I think that's a pretty good record."
Fajt also notes that Pennsylvania already ranks far above any other state which offers legalized gaming in the amount of tax revenue being returned to its citizens, and is poised to become the second largest gaming market in gross revenue in the United States less than five years after the opening of the first casino. To date, since the first casino opening, legalized casino gaming has returned $5.1 billion to the Commonwealth in tax revenue and license fees and is employing 14,000 persons in family-sustaining jobs.
Fajt says that the Board staff, in the midst of its regular oversight responsibilities, successfully launched table games into Pennsylvania casinos last year without skipping a beat. That resulted in additional tax revenue and over 5,000 more jobs, most being filled by Pennsylvania residents.
"If that does not spell success, I don't know what does," he says.
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