Time to surrender on Lottery privatization
Like a Cash 5 player who believes if he keeps at it he will finally hit the jackpot, the Corbett administration has continued to tack extensions onto a bid by a British company to manage the Pennsylvania Lottery, even though Kathleen Kane, the state’s attorney general, said in February that privatization was unconstitutional and would not make the grade with her office.
The latest extension ends Oct. 29. While Corbett and his allies say they have been trying to refine the measure’s language to somehow make it acceptable to Kane, it’s time for the governor to raise the white flag and surrender.
The proposal to put the lottery in the hands of London-based Camelot Global Services, which manages Britain’s national lottery, is not without merit. It would create a guaranteed annual stream of revenue for the commonwealth over the next 20 years totaling about $1.7 billion per year or $34 billion over the life of the contract, no matter the fluctuations in the economy or the level of interest in the lottery. The Department of Revenue says that it would generate only $30 billion in the same period if it remains in state hands. The privatization plan would also broaden the number of games and their availability, and the Corbett administration has argued that beefing up the lottery is a necessity, since the number of seniors the lottery benefits is expected to increase in the coming decades.
On the other hand, there are those who wonder if ubiquitous gambling opportunities are necessarily good for individual pocketbooks or society as a whole, and Kane argued putting an outside entity in charge of the lottery would usurp the Legislature’s authority to manage it.
Some lawmakers are urging Corbett to let the contract lapse after Oct. 29, including state Sen. Tim Solobay, a Canonsburg Democrat. He told Pittsburgh NPR affiliate WESA-FM, “I really have had no one tell me or ask me to do what the governor is proposing ... If they’re interested in making more money for the lottery, I think we could expand that within our own Lottery Commission, and maybe if anything have a consulting group assist them with looking at new things.”
Though tenacious fighters are to be admired, knowing which battles to choose is also a virtue. With liquor-store privatization in limbo and transportation funding stalled, exporting the lottery to the United Kingdom is a skirmish that Corbett should devote no more time or resources to.