The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

January 19, 2013

JOHN FINNERTY | Lottery plan getting resistance from Dems

HARRISBURG — Ever since the Corbett administration announced it was seeking to hire a private manager to run the Pennsylvania Lottery, the plan was beset by questions.

Many of the questions were answered last week at a Senate hearing and in subsequent comments by the administration officials and the private operator, Camelot Global Services.

Even after most of the concerns had been addressed, Democrats continued to object to a plan for a variety of reasons, most of which seemed largely contrived to object for the sake of disagreeing.

In a rally Wednesday, a parade of Democrats gave voice to a variety of complaints. Among the most impassioned was Rep. Anthony DeLuca, a Democrat from Pittsburgh, who wondered about the wisdom of putting keno in bars so that besotted barflies might blow their weekly wages rather than put bread on the kitchen table.

It seems odd that we are only struck by the moral ambiguity of funding social programs through state-run gaming when the venture is proposed by the Republican governor.

Another complaint about keno?

It might hurt business at casinos that are also funneling money into government coffers.

“If this plan goes through and the state expands lottery gambling to video-based games like keno, how will that impact slot machines in our casinos?” asked Rep. Rosita Youngblood, D-Philadelphia.

“What would be the impact on property tax relief for Pennsylvania homeowners and wage tax relief for Philadelphians?”

 

•••

For better or worse, Corbett’s plan simply follows the standard MO of the small government crowd.

The thinking goes: When the private sector can do the same job as well as government, then the job should be shifted out of the public sector.

With the Lottery contract awarded, Corbett immediately began to signal that privatizing the liquor store system is next on the agenda.

Even so, the Lottery issue is not completely settled. There is a lawsuit filed by the union and the newly elected attorney general, Kathleen Kane, must review it “for form and legality.”

The most perilous legal question would appear to be whether the governor overstepped his authority by hiring a private manager without an act of the Legislature.

Kane issued a short statement on Friday indicating that her office “will carry out our duty and report back as soon as our review is completed.”

 

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