The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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November 10, 2012

Pa. looking to take games, winnings online

HARRISBURG — The administration of Gov. Tom Corbett said Friday that expanding Pennsylvania Lottery gambling to keno and online games will be one of the best ways to produce more revenue from the $3.5 billion lottery system that funds programs for the elderly.

The administration made the statement as part of an update on its talks with companies about privatizing the management of the $3.5 billion lottery system under a 20-year agreement.

Asked about it Friday, Corbett would say only that the ideas are “on the table.”

Corbett’s administration believes it has the legal authority to allow keno and online games without the Legislature’s approval, but Senate attorneys have said they do not agree.

Bidders will have to say how much profit they will promise to the state each year.

However, the Corbett administration continues to keep secret which companies it is talking with. Other states, such as Indiana and New Jersey, have shown no need to keep such secrets while exploring private lottery management contracts. Companies that have shown interest or have won contracts in other states include GTECH Corp., Camelot Group, Scientific Games and Intralot.

The move to privatize is being opposed by Democrats and the state’s largest employee union, who question why it is appropriate to pay a private company to run the lottery when the state employees who do it now are producing increased sales and are capable of overseeing the expansion of lottery gambling. Lottery sales increased last fiscal year by 8.5 percent and, after paying prizes and expenses, it returned slightly more than $1 billion for state programs.

Corbett said Friday that privatization will only happen if the state can guarantee itself more money.

“If we can ensure increased funding and protect our seniors who are the recipients of the lottery ... then we have our obligation to take a look at privatizing,” Corbett said.

The state would retain full rights to conduct, control, inspect and audit the lottery.

In addition to online gambling and allowing keno terminals in bars or restaurants, other options to expand gambling could include online ticket sales or an aggressive new search to add more lottery retailers.

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