PLAINS TOWNSHIP -- Newswatch 16 discovered the state distributed nearly a quarter billion casino dollars to Pennsylvania`s horse racing tracks in 2015 alone, as part of the state`s casino gaming law.
It turns out that the state's casino gambling law was backed by several horse race lobbying groups. One group actually claims to have written part of the law.
Newswatch 16 went through years of campaign finance reports. Since 2014, three horse racing lobbying groups donated nearly $50,000 to Governor Tom Wolf.
That's all legal.
One of Wolf`s biggest horse racing donors is the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. The association's president is attorney Salvatore DeBunda.
In his online biography, Debunda has written that he is 'the primary drafter of the horsemen`s sections' of the bill that became what's now the casino gaming law.
"That's not a good relationship," commented David Sosar, a political science professor at King's College.
Even though Pennsylvania had a different governor at the time the bill was written in 2004, having any special interest group draft legislation that would benefit themselves is unethical.
"That makes people's ears tick up and assume the worst instead of the best," added Sosar.
We contacted DeBunda with an interview request, as well as several of the bill`s sponsors. We never heard back. After we showed some taxpayers what we found, they had plenty to say.
"That makes no sense, and it shouldn't be that way, it's backwards!" said Jeremy Mccoy of Wilkes-Barre.
When casinos were legalized, lawmakers promised they`d generate so much state revenue, property owners would recieve an average of $300 in property tax savings. Thursday, the average amount of property tax relief is less than $200, leaving some property owners wishing they had their own lobbying group.
"It was supposed to pay for the taxes on the houses and it somehow seemed like they reneged on the deal," said Robert Supkas of Plains Township.
Sosar says there may be a good reasons why a special interest group would want to write a bill, but that job should be left to lawmakers and their aides.
"The industry knows better than what you do, but really, it's better that legislators seek that information but write their own bills," Sosar said.
Sosar also points out the public has a right to know and should know where public policy comes from.