Recent media coverage has highlighted how positions on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board are among the most coveted political appointments in Harrisburg, without any real background in casino industry issues expected of those getting the post.
Spotlight PA, an independent news service whose work is published in major newspapers around the state, used the appointment of new board member Frances Regan to call attention to the process.
The group’s story published Wednesday noted that Regan, who was sworn in this week to the $145,000 position, is the wife of Republican state Sen. Mike Regan of York County. She was appointed to the two-year position by Regan’s Republican Senate colleague, President Pro Tempore Jake Corman.
Frances Regan’s qualifications to help oversee an industry that normally generates more than $3 billion a year in revenue and more than $1 billion in state taxes?
According to Spotlight PA, her biography indicates “she served with the federal probation office for more than 24 years conducting background and criminal investigations. For the past six years, she has been a small business owner, holding public and private fitness classes to empower women and their personal safety.”
Corman told Spotlight PA that Regan’s status as a senator’s wife should not disqualify her from the position, and that she was well-suited because of a background in law enforcement. He also said she was a friend that he could trust.
Ex-lawmakers are also frequently on the board
The seven-member gaming board, heading the regulatory agency created by 2004 legislation, is made up of three gubernatorial appointees and one each selected by Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate and House.
Another new appointee is Frank Dermody, who was a longtime House member from suburban Pittsburgh and lost a re-election bid last year after serving as the top Democrat in that chamber. He is a former local prosecutor.
Spotlight PA reported that of 31 people who have served on the gaming board, 16 were former legislators or had held other positions in state government. The $145,000 salary on the gaming board is higher than that of lawmakers and most others working in state government.
Unlike appointees to cabinet positions and some other high-level agencies, the appointees do not undergo any legislative review or confirmation process. No explanation of their qualifications is required, which raises some questions for a political science professor interviewed by Spotlight.
“You would expect a clear case to be made about why you are the person to add value to an important board,” said professor Christopher Borick of Muhlenberg College in Allentown.
Frances Regan’s predecessor as the Senate Republican appointee to the board was Merritt Reitzel. She was chosen by Corman’s predecessor as pro tem, Joe Scarnati, and Spotlight noted that she was the sister-in-law of Scarnati’s then-chief of staff.