Former state gaming official represents two casinos

Harrisburg – A former top-ranking state gambling regulator who left his job three months ago is now a lawyer and registered lobbyist for Mohegan Sun at Poconos Downs in Plains Township and Philadelphia Park casino in Bensalem.

Attorney Kevin C. Hayes of Scranton served as director of the Office of Gaming Operations for the state Gaming Control Board until May 29, when he resigned.

In that post, he oversaw the day-to-day details for the gaming board surrounding the opening of casinos across Pennsylvania, including Mohegan Sun and Mount Airy Casino Resort in Monroe County. Hayes was personally on the scene in the days leading up to the well-publicized casino openings. But members of the gaming board hold the authority to decide whether a casino opens or not.

Hayes is back in his hometown working with Doherty Hayes LLC at 321 Spruce St. He and attorney James A. Doherty of the same firm are registered with the Department of State as lobbyists for the two casinos. The two attorneys also are listed by the gaming board as “professional representatives” for the two casinos.

Hayes said Wednesday he is doing legal work for the two casinos, but is not lobbying on either casino’s behalf. Hayes said he registered as a lobbyist to cover any legal bases given debate in recent years over the role of lawyers dealing with government agencies.

Hayes’ turnabout from casino regulator to casino representative can be viewed as part of a “revolving door” phenomenon long familiar in Harrisburg and Washington. The state Ethics Act addresses this issue in part by requiring a one-year waiting period before a former public employee can represent an individual before the agency that had employed them.

But attorneys don’t fall under this one-year waiting period when it comes to appearing before an agency, Hayes argued. He provided research of state court cases concerning Ethics Commission regulation of former government attorneys.

“I am a Pennsylvania lawyer and am practicing law,” he added. “I abide by the rules of professional conduct established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”

One of Hayes’ last duties with the gaming board was to steer board approval of the floor plan for Mohegan Sun’s permanent casino. The facility opened its doors in July, after Hayes left the agency.

That kind of familiarity makes Hayes valuable, said Mohegan Sun CEO Robert Soper.

“He understands our property because he was on the site of it,” he said.

Soper said he expects Hayes to help Mohegan Sun deal with legal and regulatory issues that are commonplace to the gaming industry. Hayes’ understanding of the regulations and regulatory structure is a plus, he said.