PNG Chairman: Laws on Foreign Corruption a Roadblock to Growth

by | 11.11.2013 | 12:03pm

Oh, those pesky laws.

Peter Carlino, chairman of Penn National Gaming, the powerful casino company that owns a number of racetracks scattered throughout the United States, wants to expand beyond North America. But federal laws, specifically the 1977 American Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, are making it difficult.

Speaking to potential investors at the Baron Investment Conference in New York last week, according to, Carlino indicated Penn National was courting an Asian country for the purposes of expansion but was stymied by the federal law that makes it illegal to bribe foreign entities. Specifically, the CNBC report said, payoffs to border guards were a “line item” to help get things done.

“It seems OK to me, frankly,” quoted Carlino as saying. “If that's the game, we'll play it.”

That was the game American aerospace company Lockheed played in the 1960s and ‘70s, paying millions of dollars to government officials in Germany, Italy, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia to get them to buy their airplanes. An investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission determined hundreds of other companies had similar pay-to-play programs.

After that discovery, Congess passed the federal law requiring transparency in accounting and making it illegal to bribe foreign officials.

Penn National is a juggernaut in the U.S. gambling industry, thanks largely to Carlino's ability to see expansion opportunities and exploit them. Ten of the publicly traded company's 28 gambling properties are tied to pari-mutuel gambling licenses. Although it began as a racetrack company and its namesake, Penn National racecourse in Pennsylvania, has been around for decades, make no mistake: Penn National Gaming is a casino company. If it needs to build, buy or operate a racetrack in order to get a casino, it will do so.

As Carlino said, “If that's the game, we'll play it.”

  • Hamish

    Not sure the Chairman meant to make it sound exacttly like that? Bribes described as a “line item,” just the cost of doing business, I guess!

  • Jay Stone

    Does that mean he would also bribe Americans to get what he wants in this country. All that is wrong with politics and big business begins right here.

    • jazz mania

      Overseas it’s a “bribe”, here it’s a “contribution”…

  • Tinky

    “If that’s the game, we’ll play it.”

    Is it any wonder that American CEOs are largely interchangeable? Carlino has nicely crystalized their fundamental, slippery-ethics mantra.

    • Richard C

      Try to gain an edge to beat the house in one of Penn’s joints, and they’ll play the game of booting you out and getting their attorneys fired up to press charges.

  • Richard C

    Honesty is not the best policy in gaming, I gather.

  • J_W_C_NM

    Virtually every jurisdiction in the world requires some kind off payoff to engage in commerce. Fees, licenses, kickbacks, bribes, nepotism. Hardly a dimes bit of difference.

    • Hamish

      Wow, so the corrupt system prevails. Seems acceptable to some, perhaps the largest beneficiaries, but not all.

  • Don Reed

    I left a message with his office stating that I am willing to bribe whomever it takes in order to win at their blackjack tables.
    (As if I’d ever step into their filthy corridors.)

  • Mimi Hunter

    I can remember when harness racing was first approved in PA. Doesn’t sound like anything has changed.

  • 4Bellwether666

    Looks like 100% of the folks here wouldn’t touch this guy with a ten foot pole…Sounds like he would be right @ home on the HILL in DC…

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