HARRISBURG — When the state auditor general looked at the Gaming Control Board, he found it had reduced its expenses from a few years ago. But something else caught his eye: how much board members are allowed to spend on dining on business trips.
The agency, which regulates gambling in Pennsylvania, permits its board members to spend 2½ times what staff members are allowed to spend on food while on the road. On a trip to Pittsburgh, that’s $71 a day for a staff member, but $177.50 a day for a member of the board.
“I’ve been to Pittsburgh. Born and raised there,” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday. “Pittsburgh’s not Manhattan. I mean, that’s a lot of food that you can get for $177.50. I’m sure it exists, but I don’t know where you’re eating for that, for one person.”
Mr. DePasquale recommended that the Gaming Control Board change its policy so board members are no longer allowed to spend more than staff on food while on trips.
Doug Harbach, spokesman for the Gaming Control Board, said board members don’t actually spend as much on food as the rules allow; that they must provide receipts; that expenses are posted online; and that the Gaming Control Board’s money comes from the casinos, not taxes.
“There are no instances where the board came close to that amount in its actual expenditures,” he said, in an email, of the 2½ times rate. “For the most part, the vast majority of the submitted expenses were at, slightly over, or under the regular per diem rate.”
Nevertheless, he said, the board will take a look at the auditor general’s recommendation.
As far as the actual spending goes, Mr. DePasquale said his auditors found the Gaming Control Board has significantly reduced its expenses from a few years ago.
Operating expenditures dropped 23 percent from 2008-09, when they totaled $3.487 million, to 2014-15, when they totaled $2.674 million, according to the auditor general’s office. That drop was driven in part by a 54.9 percent reduction in travel expenditures, which decreased from $590,716 to $266,534.
Separately, Mr. DePasquale said the audit found that the addition of table games to Pennsylvania casinos had created fewer jobs than the industry projected.
A study commissioned by the casino industry projected as many as 10,100 direct jobs — dealers, cashiers and security workers — would be created by the 2010 legalization of table gaming, the auditor general’s office said. But by June 2015, only 6,156 direct jobs had been created, auditors found.
The auditor general’s team also found that few local law enforcement agencies have been applying for grants intended to help them combat illegal gambling. Over nearly two years, the program awarded only $1.04 million, little more than a quarter of the $4 million allocated to the program during that time, according to his office. Mr. DePasquale said it appears the program’s requirements are too restrictive, barring local agencies, for example, from using the grants to buy vehicles.
Karen Langley: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley