Lottery gamble: Did Corbett administration try to gauge the impact?
Share with others:
Like a reckless gambler who doesn't want to think about the consequences, the Corbett administration has rushed headlong into a contract with a British-based firm to run the Pennsylvania Lottery.
The deal, which will let Camelot Global Services figure out how to bring the state more than $34 billion in profits over 20 years, allows the addition of keno in bars and restaurants and online lottery sales. That's a major expansion in gambling, all without the Legislature's approval.
Although the administration claims it has gone down this path out in the open and in plain sight, Pennsylvanians have not heard anybody explain the anticipated impact of such a proliferation of games. Yet the state revenue secretary told a Senate committee Monday that 500 bars and restaurants with lottery licenses will be the first to get keno and that by 2015 lottery tickets will be sold online. That means gambling can then be done in the privacy of one's home or workplace, presumably with a few clicks on a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
That's evidently how Camelot hopes to get 50 percent of Pennsylvanians playing the lottery every week, compared to the 10 percent to 30 percent who play today. If that's what truly lies ahead, then the state has been cheated out of a public discussion that should have been held long before Gov. Tom Corbett approved the contract.
The Post-Gazette has nothing against privatizing certain aspects of state operations, and our longtime advocacy of getting government out of the liquor business is proof of that. We also have supported limited expansions in gambling, including the opening of Pennsylvania's casinos, but only after thorough and public consideration was given to its ramifications, both good and bad.
But the Corbett administration has failed Pennsylvania on Camelot's sole-bid contract. In its drive to seal a deal that will squeeze more money out of an already profitable state lottery (more than $1 billion last year), it failed to take enough time to gauge the human impact.
Fortunately, the state treasurer and state attorney general get to look at the terms of the contract. We hope they agree that this major addition of gambling sites, types and access should have first been approved by the Legislature.
The Camelot deal may be a safe bet on the revenue side, but it gambles with the fortunes of too many average Pennsylvanians.
First Published January 20, 2013 12:00 am