Pennsylvania Lottery thriving on its own

August 28, 2014

When the political obituaries are written about Gov. Tom Corbett’s tenure – and, barring a Trumanesque turnaround, the state’s political scribes are refilling their inkwells for that task – at least a couple of paragraphs will be devoted to his bungled efforts to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery.

The plan to have Britain’s Camelot Global Services operate the lottery drained Corbett’s political capital, found little support among legislators and was met with significant skepticism by the public. Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s arguments it would not have passed constitutional muster were, more or less, lottery privatization’s coup de grace.

The whole episode was a setback for Corbett. But, in the long term, the preliminary evidence suggests the Pennsylvania Lottery will do just fine being operated nearer to the Steelers’ Big Ben and not the Big Ben that towers over the River Thames.

In July, it was announced the lottery’s ticket sales hit a record in the year that stretched from July 1, 2013 to June 30, reaching $3.8 billion. That marked a $100 million increase over the previous record-setter, which was the year before. If sales remain at this pace, and without taking inflation into consideration, the Lottery will take in $76 billion over the next 20 years, comfortably exceeding the $34 billion in profits Camelot Global Services promised.

And that could happen without the dubious proposition of pushing the lottery into bars and restaurants, which was one of the selling points of the privatization plan. Since we’re getting to the juncture where there’s virtually a casino at every crossroads, it’s questionable whether Pennsylvanians would have had much more change left in their wallets that they could have frittered away on gambling.

Moreover, last week Illinois bowed out of a 10-year deal with a private firm that was managing its lottery a full seven years ahead of schedule. Turns out the increased revenues the state was promised failed to materialize.

Anyone who frequently plays the lottery knows the chances of winning big are infinitesimal. The odds of lottery privatization succeeding might have been even steeper.



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