As negotiations continue on a plan to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery, State Democrats are calling on the governor to slow down the process and make it more transparent. Senator Matt Smith said the proposal amounts to an improper expansion of the lottery.
“It should be done under the Gaming Act, rather than the Lottery Law,” he said, “with that you need legislative approval, you need to have public hearings and you need to have thoughtful and deliberative debate in the light of day rather than what’s been done over the last couple of weeks and couple of months with the administration doing things behind closed doors.”
The Corbett administration is pursuing a lottery privatization deal with the British-based firm Camelot Global Services because it hopes to ensure the lottery produces the rising profits necessary to satisfy growing demand for state services for the elderly. But opponents question that, and claim any additional profits would go to shareholders of Camelot, not to senior programs.
“I think seniors right now are particularly concerned because they’re reading things in media reports and they recognize that their programs are really being put at risk by this risky scheme,” he said, “we need to make sure that we’re providing seniors with the peace of mind that their programs will be preserved.”
A deadline for an agreement on the plan is slated for midnight Friday, though the Corbett administration is pushing for another extension – it’s already been extended twice. Administration officials remain supportive of Camelot's bid, but the union representing state lottery employees is suing to block the agreement and has filed a grievance and an unfair labor practice charge. House Minority Leader Frank Dermody called the plan a solution in search of a problem.
“We have the best, well-run lottery in the country. It set record profits last year, they have the lowest overhead in the country, they are doing a tremendous job running this lottery right now and there’s no need to jeopardize senior programs.”
On Monday, lottery employees, representatives from Camelot, and the state Secretary of Aging and Secretary of Revenue will testify about the plan in front of the Senate Finance Committee. The union has offered a counter proposal to the governor that would help to boost revenues and lower expenses.