The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is investigating whether a $15,000 political contribution from Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider, who is a partner in the Foxwoods Casino planned for Center City, violated the state ban on campaign giving by gambling interests.
Snider gave $15,000 on Jan. 15 to Comcast Corp. PAC-USA, a political committee registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State. The 2004 gaming act prohibits any casino principals from contributing "to any political party committee or other political committee in this commonwealth."
In an interview yesterday, Paul Mauro, deputy director of the Gaming Control Board's Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement, said only: "There is an ongoing investigation, and we don't comment on ongoing investigations."
Snider spokesman Ike Richman referred inquiries to Comcast.
Joseph W. Waz Jr., a Comcast senior vice president and the PAC's executive director, said in an e-mailed statement that Snider's contribution would be returned.
"While it is unclear the extent to which Pennsylvania's gaming laws apply to this contribution . . . COMPAC USA has determined that the most appropriate course is to refund Mr. Snider's contribution," Waz wrote.
Snider has 8 percent of the Foxwoods venture as part of Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners L.P., which owns the Foxwoods project in partnership with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.
One day after the PAC received the $15,000 from Snider, it gave $500 to State Rep. Jim Wansacz's campaign committee. A Northeastern Pennsylvania Democrat, Wansacz is a member of the House Gaming Oversight Committee. Two months later, Wansacz was threatening to push a bill to withhold $64 million in economic-development money slated for Philadelphia if the city continued to block development of its two casinos.
Wansacz, who withdrew his threat after being reassured that the city was cooperating, said that he did not know the Foxwoods investors, or that Comcast Corp. had contributed to his campaigns for years. A check of the state database showed a $275 contribution from the Comcast PAC in 2007.
"I couldn't tell you if [Snider] walked through my front door who he was," Wansacz said. His legislation, he added, was directed more at the impasse between the city and SugarHouse Casino, which has since been resolved.
A Comcast spokesman said there was no connection between the Snider contribution and the $500 contribution to Wansacz.
A Foxwoods principal has been cited for illegal contributions once before.
In 2006, developer Peter DePaul, a partner in the project, was fined $100,000 for making 21 illegal political contributions to candidates and politicians. The Foxwoods partnership was also fined $100,000.
A second offense would subject Snider and Foxwoods to fines and at least a one-day license suspension. A third violation calls for immediate revocation of the license.
Waz, in his statement, said that Snider had no say in how the PAC money was spent and that the committee supported candidates outside the state.
Snider is not prohibited from giving to federal committees or candidates. He was credited with giving at least $50,000 to the Republican National Committee and the McCain-Palin campaign, and he had Palin drop the puck at a Flyers game.