Judge Rambo Strikes Down Pennsylvania Law preventing Political Donations by Casinos

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A federal judge on Wednesday, September 19, struck down a law that has been preventing casino owners in Pennsylvania, USA, from making political donations.

U.S. District Judge, Sylvia Rambo, declared that the law was so broadly drawn that is, in fact, unconstitutional. A new law that narrows its scope and aimed at tackling corruption would be better in her view, especially if it better defines who the ban should apply to and limit those with close casino connections.

Alternatively, it could restrict the amount of cash that can be contributed to a political campaign. At present the law affects anyone, even if only donating $1 if they have “even an attenuated connection” to the gambling industry.

Not the First Time

The current ban affects people who own a stake in a casino, are a casino vendor, non-owner executive and also manufacturers of slot-machines. The law has been in place since 2004 since state legalized commercial casinos were introduced and was previously struck down in 2009, but lawmakers re-introduced it just months later. On that occasion the court felt that the law went farther than its original wording which had targeted “large” campaign contributions. When the lawmakers restored the bill they made it clear that their intention was to ban all contributions.

Last year a lawsuit was filed against the law by Pasquale Deon, who is the owner of a 2.5% stake in Sands Casino in Bethlehem, and Maggie Hardy Magerko, whose family own the Nermacolin Woodlands Resort which houses the Lady Luck Casino. Deon is a regular contributor to the Republican party as is Magerko’s father, Joseph Hardy, but has been prevented from doing so since applying for a casino licence, hence the decision to challenge the law in the courts.

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