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Midstate lawmaker: state police shouldn't guard casinos - abc27 WHTM

Midstate lawmaker: state police shouldn't guard casinos

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Poker players in Pennsylvania casinos are not immune to bad beats. Slot machine players can be victimized by lady luck.

But gamblers in the Commonwealth are protected from actual crime by the Pennsylvania State Police, which calls itself "the first and finest" state police organization in the country.

One-hundred forty of these elite policemen patrol gaming floors in the commonwealth's 12 casinos. State senator Pat Vance—(R) Cumberland County—wonders why.

"I'm not sure that the taxpayers should train state troopers, and I respect the state troopers a lot, don't misunderstand me, but they don't need to be in casinos."

Casinos, not taxpayers, paid $22.5 million to the state last year to reimburse it for state police coverage. Read it again: CASINOS pay for the State Police to be in their facilities.

And gaming is the state's golden goose; last year it put $1.4 billion in Commonwealth coffers. State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan insists it needs protecting.

"There's a lot of money going through there," said Noonan. "It's a big operation. Money like that attracts a criminal element . It just does. I know I feel much better as a citizen having State Police being there."

But with cameras and cops all over the casinos, crime's not been a huge issue. Troopers make, on average, 11 arrests per casino per month. It's random theft and drug dealing but mostly drunk and disorderly conduct.

Vance says let private security handle that.

"I know what I'm going to hear back is, state police love it because that's relatively easy duty. But is that what we're training them for with our tax dollars? I don't think so."

Noonan disagrees. "It's not gonna be economically viable if it's not the safest place you can go to spend your money. People aren't going to go there if they're getting robbed."

But Vance is just not comfortable with state resources going to a profitable private industry and gives one very big example to make her point.

"Three Mile Island," Vance said. "If anything happened there and anything blew up, we'd all be deceased quickly and yet they hire their own guards."

Noonan counters that nuclear power plants don't have thousands of unchecked patrons each day.

"I don't see any reason to change it," Noonan said. "It's working."

Many people think it is law that state police must guard casinos, but Vance insists that's not so. She says the initial Gaming Act does not mandate state police protection. That means it's a policy, not law. And policies can change with the governor.

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