Home » Lobbyists' influence is only part of problem | News, Sports, Jobs – Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Lobbyists' influence is only part of problem | News, Sports, Jobs – Williamsport Sun-Gazette

by Arifa Rana

Apr 16, 2022
The influence of lobbyists on legislation remains a pressing issue that state legislators need to correct.
But it isn’t the only issue with which legislators need to concern themselves.
Sometimes the desire to take an expansive view on “cleaning up government” means we neglect to consider how the government has already created an uneven playing field. Sometimes we need to expect our legislators to address the immediate issue of existing laws that grant preferential treatment to entities within an industry rather than chase “pie-in-the-sky” solutions to the reality that well-funded factions will always seek an advantage.
In Tuesday’s edition of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, The reporting consortium Spotlight PA detailed how casino lobbyists wrote a measure to ban skill games — electronic games that rely more on reflexes than luck and more relevantly, games that casino operators see as competition — themselves.
The report detailed how state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, R-Bensalem, invited the lobbyists to write and revise drafts of the legislation. It quotes good-government experts who say this sort of tactic “harms public confidence in government” and that legislators should serve “what they view as the public interest” while recognizing that lobbyists serve the interest of their clients.
While this is true — and important — we must also not miss the nearest trees for the forest either, to turn an old adage around.
Limiting the power of influence of lobbyists is an important, long-term goal. The consequences of allowing lobbyists to secure preferential treatment for their clients is self-evident.
But one immediate problem is a framework of legalized gaming that itself is rooted in preferential treatment for well-connected interests. And the efforts of those well-connected interests to harass potential competitors — including the skill game industry, which creates jobs right here in Lycoming County — needs to be curtailed.
As the state reforms the practices of lobbyists, it should at the same time — or preferably, before — reform the laws concerning legalized gaming. Skill game companies should not be subjected to being second-class citizens to casino operators. Competition should be, within reason, encouraged. New spins on gaming that may create jobs should be viable even if it cuts into the casinos’ profit margins.
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