PA Auditor General To Study If Gambling Revenue Is Being Spent Appropriately

Pennsylvania legalized slot machines in 2004, with the first state casino opening its doors in 2006. In those 10 years of operation, the industry has exploded in the Commonwealth, with the state taking in the second-highest gambling revenues in the US, just behind Las Vegas.

The PA auditor general now plans to study whether taxes reaped from casinos have been put to use in the way that had been planned before gambling was legalized.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale told local media that his organization will “revisit compliance” after issues with the gaming control board were raised in 2009 and 2010. The organization will also audit the board’s Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement.

“We’re going to be curious to see how effective they’ve been there,” said DePasquale. “The big picture about this is making sure that the system is running cleanly and, number two, is that the promise of jobs and property tax relief are being as maximized as they can be.”

The audits in question showed that regulators had spent exorbitantly on travel, had not done thorough background checks on employees and often engaged in scuffles with other agencies.

Little relief and rising costs

While the state’s casinos have generated billions of dollars in revenue, the amount which has gone to tax relief comes to barely $200 per homeowner. Meanwhile, property taxes continue to rise.

“Whether it’s enough property tax relief is certainly an open debate, but my job is to make sure they’re maximizing what they’re supposed to be doing,” DePasquale continued. “And third is whether the benefit to the horse racing industry is really being fulfilled because that industry has started to have some challenging times as well.”

Gambling revenue in a slump

In January of 2014, state gambling revenue dropped for the first time since 2006. The trend continued last month, with Pennsylvania slot machine revenue dipping by 3.4 percent. The downward trend has spurred some lawmakers to more seriously consider legalizing online gambling.

The state has taken steps towards that goal by conducting hearings and issuing studies on the impact the industry could have on Pennsylvania. Analysts believe that there’s a strong chance the state will legalize Internet poker by 2016.