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Regulators, casino lobbyists met before key decision

Plus, why election problems plague this NEPA county.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Thursday, February 16, 2023
Casino lobby, snafu central, 2020 vision, official workaround, Casey recovering, campaign reform, Eagles EKGs, and Armstrong County's billboard wars.    

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In 2020, gambling regulators with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board met with lobbyists for the state's largest casino, Parx, in Harrisburg.

Within weeks, the board shed its neutral stance and aligned with Parx and others in a court fight against "skill games," a key casino competitor. 

The Gaming Control Board had previously taken no position on the legality of skill games despite casino opposition, but reversed course after the meeting with Parx Casino representatives at the control board's offices. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Top gaming regulators in Pa. met with industry lobbyists before coming out against a casino competitor.

THE CONTEXT: That meeting was the culmination of an intense, behind-the-scenes push to influence the decision-making of the agency tasked with being an independent arbiter of gambling in Pennsylvania.

The 2004 law that legalized gambling here required a rigorous code of conduct for the regulatory agency. The rules are even more exacting when it comes to conversations with the people the agency oversees.

Gaming board spokesperson Doug Harbach said the 2020 meeting with Parx lobbyists didn't qualify as a discussion that had to be disclosed under the agency's ethics code and didn't influence board actions.

Mike Barley, a spokesperson for skill-games-maker Pace-O-Matic, argued that "The casinos are controlling the Gaming Control Board."


"If the Democrats are ready to lead, let's see what they want to do. Let's see the rules. Let's get the House operating an agenda that works on behalf of all Pennsylvania. So far, we've seen very little."

—GOP Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (Lancaster) forecasting a chaotic return of state House lawmakers next week amid lots of partisan acrimony
A LOST NEIGHBORHOOD: Join us Thursday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. EST on Zoom for a free panel on the history of Harrisburg’s 8th Ward, the residents who once called it home, and the groups making sure it’s remembered. Register for the event here and submit your questions to
Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all new monthly gifts will be matched 12X!
Bufflehead ducks at The Willows in Villanova, via Elliott C. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
Two ducks float on water.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.ELECTION WOES: A paper shortage that complicated midterm balloting in Luzerne County this past November was not the first problem of its kind there. Spotlight PA and Votebeat report the county has cycled through election directors and other staff over the past several years, leading to an immense loss of institutional knowledge that has coincided with an array of notable issues and mistakes. 

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.NONCOMMITTAL: The head of the GOP-led state Senate committee that launched a probe of Pennsylvania's 2020 election is noncommittal about continuing the effort after a court ruling left that door open. WITF reports state Sen. Jarrett Coleman (R., Lehigh), new chair of the Senate's Intergovernmental Operations committee, hasn't ruled out continuing the probe but says his focus is elsewhere.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.WORKAROUNDS: Several Democratic Philadelphia mayoral candidates want to circumvent progressive District Attorney Larry Krasner on gun-related criminal cases, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. They want state or federal prosecutors to handle them instead, raising a host of questions. Candidate Derek Green has the most detailed proposal yet — a $50 million plan that includes a new division of city police.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.SUCCESSFUL SURGERY: U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) underwent a planned surgery for prostate cancer this week, the 62-year-old's office said in a statement. "His doctor reports that, as expected, the procedure went well, and he confirmed that the Senator should not require further treatment," the statement adds. Casey's U.S. Senate seat is one of 20 Democrats will need to defend next year.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.COUNTY CASH: Money is pouring into the busy race for Allegheny County executive, and PublicSource reports the torrent of high-dollar checks has some officials calling for limits on campaign contributions similar to those applied to Pittsburgh and federal elections. Democratic County Councilor Tom Duerr said: "The initial disclosures show a desperate need for campaign finance reform."

NEW GIG: Morgan Boyd has resigned as Lawrence County commissioner and taken a position with Pennsylvania's Department of Community and Economic Development, per New Castle News. Boyd, a Republican, crossed party lines to endorse now-Gov. Josh Shapiro in the ruby-red county.

HEART RACE: The Philadelphia Inquirer and Kansas City Star joined forces to track the heart rates of football fanatics and casual observers during Sunday's Super Bowl: "The one constant? Everyone loves Rihanna."

SYRUP LITE: Warm winters can affect the sweetness of Pennsylvania-made maple syrup. Jon Plasterer of Shade Stone Farm told ABC27 this year's batch is half as sweet as it would be in a colder season.

GONE SAILING: Former Pittsburgh Pirate John Jaso walked away from professional baseball and millions of dollars at 34 to sail the high seas. Five years later, The Times (paywall) says he has no regrets.

BILLBOARD WARS: "Right-wing cancel culture" is blamed for bringing down an inclusivity-focused billboard in Armstrong County that went up in response to an anti-CRT-and-gay-marriage sign down the street. 

Unscramble and send your answer to We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Dichotomy

Congrats to our daily winners: Becky C., Marty M., Craig W., Elaine C., John P., Michelle T., Michael S., Jane R., Starr B., Judy M., Al M., Richard A., Susan N.-Z., Eric F., Judith D., Don H., Vicki U., Ted W., Eddy Z., Laura T., Mary Jo J., Kathee M., Beth T., Barbara F., Linda D., Jon W., Joel S., Kim C., Susan D., James L., Daniel M., Elizabeth W., Bill S., Kimberly D., Glen F., Anne B., Johnny C., Ada M., Patricia R., Dennis M., Dianne K., Stanley J., Suzanne S., Wendy A., Myles M., Keith W., and David W.
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