State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Gambling regulators' cost-cutting not enough to satisfy state auditors

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 17, 2016 3:12 PM

The state's auditor general says Pennsylvania's gambling regulators have cut their expenses in the past several years, though he still sees room for improvement.

The Gaming Control Board has reduced operational costs by about 23 percent and travel expenses by about 55 percent since 2008, according to a new audit released Wednesday.

But state auditors are unimpressed with the agency's reimbursements policy. The Gaming Control Board allows its seven salaried board members to file daily travel expenses for up to $177.50, though in 2012 it decided to limit staffers' expenses to the state's standard per diem maximum of $71.

"That, to me, is where I get my biggest bang-my-head-against-a-wall notion," said state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Wednesday, "because they lowered it for staff and not themselves."

"If it was important enough to change the reimbursement policy for staff," DePasquale added, "I don't know why the board members are still eligible for the enhanced reimbursement."

Doug Harbach, the Gaming Control Board's spokesman, said actual expenses usually fall below the maximum allowable amount, a point supported by the audit.

Harbach said the board will consider the auditor general's recommendation to eliminate the discrepancy between allowable expenses for board members and staffers, though he pointed out it's no skin off taxpayers' noses: the Gaming Control Board is entirely funded by casino revenue (which is paid in addition to taxes to the commonwealth).

"None of the expense money for board members and staff, indeed any of the money to fund the agency, comes from taxpayer dollars," said Harbach.

The auditor general's report anticipates the argument and responds to it: "such explanations fall well short of what is expected of prudent government officials." The audit goes on to recommend that the board end its "extravagances."

Published in State House Sound Bites

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