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Editorial: Gambling

Casino issues on the table

When we last left our saga of the one-armed bandits in Harrisburg, a federal lawsuit had been filed alleging that the state Supreme Court had upheld Pennsylvania's entre into slots gambling in exchange for the legislature's approval of a pay raise for judges.

That's right: The state's former chief justice, Ralph Cappy, is accused of lobbying lawmakers for a judicial pay hike while the high court was considering whether to legalize slots gambling. Cappy denies the allegation.

In some states that's big news. But in Harrisburg, it's just another day at the office.

The lawsuit, filed last month in federal court by the League of Women's Voters, came on the heels of the indictment earlier this year of Poconos slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples, a politically connected Scranton businessman accused of lying to the state Gaming Control Board about his alleged mob ties.

The DeNaples indictment shined a light on weaknesses surrounding the gaming law, including the licensing and background check procedures of slots license applicants. The upshot is a flawed system that resembles a Keystone Cops flick.

Now comes the latest troubling development: Days after the League's lawsuit was filed, the executive director of the Gaming Control Board resigned. Anne LaCour Neeb, who previously ran the Louisiana gaming board, bolted back to the bayou after about three years here. Here's the good part: Although Neeb quit her $180,000-a-year job effective June 6, the paychecks from Pennsylvania will keep coming until September.

That's about $45,000 for


coming to work; a better payout than most slot machines.

But Neeb may be a pro at such deals. The inspector general in Louisiana found that Neeb was paid $2,700 for hours she didn't work. Neeb denied the finding and said the report was retaliation for her reporting possible gambling corruption by state officials to federal authorities.

Neeb's pay-while-away plan isn't the biggest blunder surrounding the state's handling of legalized gambling; it's just the most recent.

It's past time for state officials to end the cronyism and slipshod oversight of the fledgling gaming industry. Neeb's departure offers an opportunity to find a strong and independent leader who can restore some confidence in Gov. Rendell's brainchild.