When Pennsylvania was about to legalize slot parlors in 2004, lawmakers reconciling legislative differences for a final bill wanted to make sure casinos wouldn’t produce jackpots for politicians. So a last-minute provision was inserted that barred campaign contributions from anyone with an ownership stake in casinos in the state.

Five years later, the state Supreme Court struck down that provision as an unconstitutional limit on free speech rights. But even with expensive statewide races for governor and U.S. Senate looming, don’t expect wads of campaign cash to flow from those mavens of gambling just yet. Some politicians, including the Democratic governor who pushed for legalized gaming, are adamant that they still won’t accept money from casino interests. A Republican state lawmaker is preparing a new bill that would circumvent the court’s decision. And, after enjoying a legal excuse for keeping their wallets closed, casino executives aren’t exactly rushing to shell out campaign cash.

“As a matter of levity, I’ve heard from many people in the industry who say ‘now I’ve lost my cover,’” says Robert Krauss, a Philadelphia attorney and gaming law expert who helped the legislature draft parts of the original gaming law. Many casino interests, he speculated, will simply donate to lawmakers who already share their point of view on gaming law.

Besides, people always assumed that casinos were finding an indirect way to make their lobbying weight felt in Harrisburg, even if they couldn’t always prove it.

READ MORE in the June issue.