Senior Senator appoints colleague’s wife to lucrative Gaming Control Commission seat

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By Angela Couloumbis from Spotlight PA

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HARRISBURG – Senior Pennsylvania Senate Republican quietly appointed a colleague’s wife to a coveted spot on the state’s Gaming Control Board, again raising questions whether the regulatory committee has become a field landing for the politically connected.

Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R., Center) appointed Frances “Fran” Regan for a two-year term on the board, a privileged appointment in Harrisburg circles because, with a salary of $ 145,000 is one of the highest. paid positions in state government.

Regan, who is married to Sen. Mike Regan (R., York), was sworn in on Monday, with little fanfare in the office of the Gaming Control Board, according to board officials.

Unlike several previous dates, there was no press release announcing his selection – his name was simply on the council website. When asked for Regan’s resume, council officials initially said they didn’t have one. Late Tuesday, they provided a biography for Regan, who says she worked at the federal probation office for over 24 years, conducting background and criminal case investigations.

For the past six years, she has owned a small business, running public and private fitness classes to empower women and their personal safety.

Frances Regan could not be contacted immediately.

In an interview on Tuesday, Corman said he chose Regan because of his law enforcement background. Being linked to an official shouldn’t disqualify her from her post, Corman said, adding that he had interviewed just under half a dozen people for the post.

“Just because your husband is involved in public service doesn’t mean you shouldn’t,” he said, adding that Frances Regan is a friend and that he wants someone in the job that he can trust.

Since its inception, the board of directors, which oversees slots and casino games in the state, has often hosted prominent names in Pennsylvania politics and government, including former lawmakers. When lawmakers legalized casino gambling in 2004, they gave the governor the option of appointing three board members. The four Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate each get one nomination.

The board now oversees an industry that in 2019 generated $ 3.4 billion in revenue, according to the Gaming Control Board. Even during the pandemic, combined revenue from slots, table games, sports betting, iGaming, video game terminals and fantasy contests totaled $ 2.6 billion.

Of the 31 people who have been appointed to the Gaming Control Council since 2004, 16 have served as state government or lawmakers, or have themselves been state lawmakers, according to an analysis by Spotlight PA.

Last month, longtime State Representative Frank Dermody, the former State House Democrat who lost reelection last year, was bugged by House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, of Philadelphia. to sit on the board.

Dermody, a former prosecutor who served in the legislature for 30 years, became the fourth former House Democrat to land a seat on the board, which includes two other former lawmakers.

For Dermody and other lawmakers, the appointment is more than just a well-paying job – it could ultimately help increase their future retirement income. In Pennsylvania, these are calculated using a formula that takes into account the highest three years of a person’s salary. And the Gaming Control Board pays far more than what the grassroots lawmakers, as well as those who rule, earn each year.

Christopher Borick, professor of political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, said it was up to officials like Corman to explain their choices. And when it comes to political appointments, like those to the Gaming Control Board and other statewide panels, the bar is expected to be even higher.

“You would expect clear arguments to be made,” Borick said, “about why you are the person who adds value to an important piece of advice. This is the missing link. You don’t see that anymore.

Frances Regan’s husband Mike Regan was elected to the Senate in 2016 and re-elected for a second four-year term in 2020. His name has been mentioned in political circles as a potential Republican candidate for governor, though the central Pennsylvania lawmaker did not. publicly announced any intention to run for a senior position. In 2022, two key political positions – the governor’s office and one of the two seats in the US State Senate – are up for grabs.

Frances Regan replaced outgoing board member Merritt Reitzel, who was appointed by Corman’s predecessor, Republican Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County. At the time, her appointment attracted close scrutiny because Reitzel was the sister-in-law of Scarnati’s chief of staff.

The state Senate has since hired Reitzel to serve as an attorney on the committee that oversees the regulation of gambling, according to Corman.

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