Lawmakers question how expanded lottery will affect Pa. casinos

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HARRISBURG -- In a letter dated the same day that Gov. Tom Corbett's administration signed a contract hiring a private manager for the state lottery, Republican lawmakers questioned the potential impact that deal could have on Pennsylvania casinos.

The five lawmakers, including Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County and Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi of Delware County, write that plans from Camelot Global Services PA LLC to create keno and online gambling "have raised serious concerns" about the potential breadth of the lottery's offerings.

"Not only is this a broader expansion of gambling than has been described, but these games will directly compete against our highly regulated casinos," they wrote.

The senators say they are looking into legislation "to clarify that these types of games will be prohibited in the future." They also asked Mr. Corbett to revise Camelot's pending management contract, which would allow for keno to be implemented immediately and online ticket sales as soon as 2015.

Camelot, which operates the United Kingdom lottery, has pledged to bring in more than $34 billion in profits over the course of a 20-year management contract, in part through introducing online ticket sales and keno.

The Camelot contract was signed last week by state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser, and now is awaiting a review by the attorney general's office for any potential legal issues.

In their letter, the GOP senators compared lottery vendors offering online or "monitor-based" games like keno with the so-called Internet "sweepstakes cafes" that were banned last year.

Law enforcement officials had said the cafes offered an experience similar to that in casinos. If bars were to add keno monitors, "there will be no difference between that operation and those in casinos, except that casinos are subject to far more scrutiny," the senators wrote.

Also signed on the letter are Sens. Kim Ward of Hempfield, Tommy Tomlinson of Bucks County and Pat Browne of Lehigh County.

The Corbett administration has said it believes it has legal authority to offer such new games under the current lottery law.

Asked for a response to the Senate Republicans' letter, the governor's office issued a statement saying Mr. Corbett "remains committed to a cautious approach to the introduction of any new games authorized by existing statute, and we are confident that Camelot shares the same commitment."

Corbett spokesman Eric Shirk added that the administration has found no evidence in other states that implementing keno impacted casino revenues.

Lottery proceeds fund programs for older Pennsylvanians, such as property-tax rebates and discounts on prescription drugs. Mr. Corbett and other administration officials point to the state's growing senior population as a key reason to boost revenues.

Earlier Tuesday, the state House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee held that chamber's first public hearing on the contract since Camelot's sole bid was announced in November and heard from advocates for older-adult programs.

Officials from Camelot, the Corbett administration, and AFSCME Council 13, which represents most of the state lottery workers, are scheduled to appear at a second House hearing today.

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Harrisburg bureau chief Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-4254.


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