Governor Rendell Lauds Outgoing Gaming Control Board Chair Mary Digiacomo Colins
HARRISBURG: Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell said today that outgoing Gaming Control Board Chair Mary DiGiacomo Colins has served with honor and integrity, and that the entire Commonwealth has benefited from her diligent work to both foster the start of the new slot machine industry and develop strict oversight guidelines to protect the interests of the citizens.
Governor Rendell made the comments as Colins announced that she is stepping down today as the second Chair of the casino oversight agency, serving during a period of extraordinary growth of the Commonwealth’s nascent industry.
“I am very grateful to Judge Colins for guiding the Gaming Control Board through a very critical stage in the development of this important industry in Pennsylvania,” Governor Rendell said. “She has demonstrated unimpeachable integrity and an uncommon commitment to find consensus in working through difficult issues, enhancing the board’s growing reputation as a national leader in gaming regulation and oversight.”
Colins continued to serve at the pleasure of the Governor for nearly a year even though her second term concluded in July 2008. Colins, an original appointee to the Board by Governor Rendell in September 2004 for an initial one year term, was reappointed to a full three year term in July 2005 and named by the Governor as Chair in August 2007.
Colins says she was very fortunate to serve as Chairman with a great number of talented and dedicated persons, and was grateful to Governor Rendell for his faith in her capabilities.
"Presiding over the Board has been challenging, exciting and at times difficult. But, throughout my tenure at the Board, I’ve constantly been sustained by the dedication and commitment of the staff," said Colins. “I am particularly proud of the regulatory framework I helped to establish that gives direction to the gaming industry, protects the interests of the citizens of Pennsylvania, and has created property tax relief and jobs.”
Throughout her tenure on the Board, Colins was a driving force in the swift and successful development of both the Commonwealth’s slot machine gaming market and of the Gaming Control Board, Pennsylvania’s first startup agency in nearly 40 years. In her role as Board member, and later Chair, Colins utilized her extensive legal background to direct the development of some of the toughest regulations in the gaming industry, including landmark regulations dealing with problem gambling.
In addition, Colins led in constructing an open public-input hearing process during the initial licensing phase that provided an opportunity for citizens, community groups and public officials to directly tell the Board about how proposed casino projects would affect them and their neighborhoods. In 2006, twenty-two of these hearings were held throughout the state resulting in the receipt of oral or written testimony from thousands of Pennsylvanians. This public input process, while not mandated by law, was so successful and critical to the licensing process, that it was later added to the Gaming Act by the Legislature as a mandatory step in future licensing decisions.
While the United States gaming industry generally suffered through the recent economic downturn. Pennsylvania’s gaming industry grew during Colins’ tenure as Chair. With seven of the twelve licensed casinos open (the eighth is due to open May 22, 2009), slot machine gaming in the Commonwealth saw a steady month-over-month growth in revenues with casinos already generating an average of $2.8 million a day in taxes that are returned to Commonwealth citizens, primarily toward property tax relief.
Just as importantly, during Colins’ term on the Board, nearly 7,500 living wage casino jobs have been created along with 17,000 construction related jobs at a time when overall state employment numbers have decreased.
Also during her tenure as Chair, Colins steered the successful ownership change of the financially troubled Pittsburgh casino project. This effort thwarted a significant delay in construction, put hundreds of construction employees back to work and cleared the way for an additional thousand jobs to be created once the casino opens its doors in August of this year. In addition, the decision approved by the Board under Colins’ leadership also made sure that the new owners adhered to all commitments made to the City of Pittsburgh during the licensing process. These commitments include funding for the new multi-purpose arena and millions of dollars in additional contributions to city groups.
The Gaming Control Board, created upon passage of the Pennsylvania Racehorse Development and Gaming Act in July 2004, began operations in December of that year with just the seven member Board and a few state employees. Colins has been instrumental in growing the organization to more than 250 professionals that perform licensing, enforcement and compliance duties in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Scranton and at all casinos.
Frank Donaghue, Acting Executive Director of the Gaming Control Board says Colins did a tremendous job in guiding staff through the creation and promulgation of new gaming regulations, encouraging intellectual debate among staff regarding the policies and procedures that would best serve the citizens of the Commonwealth in the agency’s important role of gaming oversight.
“Judge Colins worked diligently through many long hours to fulfill the mandates of the Gaming Act and promote a strict regulatory environment for Pennsylvania,” Donaghue says. “She accomplished this by encouraging open dialogue with staff, the public and the regulated gaming community to work toward establishing an effective yet efficient regulatory body.”
Colins was elected to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in 1990 and won retention in 2000. Before becoming a judge, she served as Assistant Chief of the Economic Crimes Unit in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. She was hired as an Assistant District Attorney by then-District Attorney Rendell in 1985. She also served as in-house Associate Labor Counsel to CertainTeed Corp. and was a hearing examiner for the Federal Employee Appeals Authority. She received her BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania in 1970, an MA in English from Villanova University in 1973, her J.D. from Temple University School of Law in 1974 and a Master’s in Labor Laws from Temple University School of Law in 1980.
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