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Senate Republicans want limits in lottery privatization deal

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Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, 4:58 p.m.
 

HARRISBURG — Five Republican senators told Gov. Tom Corbett they want his lottery management privatization contract rewritten to prohibit interactive video machines that simulate casino gambling.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County and Majority Leader Domenic Pilleggi of Delaware County are among the senators who said they're concerned the contract with Camelot Global Services PA would “directly compete” with Pennsylvania‘s casino industry.

The Tribune-Review on Tuesday obtained the letter they sent Corbett last week.

“There is concern that the contract would allow Camelot or its subcontractors to expand the lottery from what is generally considered to be ‘keno' and provide unlimited types of Internet and monitor-based interactive games,” said the letter, also signed by Sens. Kim Ward of Hempfield, Patrick Browne of Allentown and Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson of Bucks County.

The senators asked that the “contract and related documents be restated” to preclude interactive video games, simulated slots or table games.

Corbett, a Republican, signed the contract last week after his administration and Camelot agreed to two delays. Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, is reviewing the deal.

“Gov. Tom 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,” said Corbett spokesman Eric Shirk. “Camelot was recently awarded the World Lottery Association's Responsible Gaming Award, highlighting that social responsibility is a core tenet of their approach.”

The senators said they would explore “a more comprehensive and permanent statutory solution, in order to clarify that these types of games will be prohibited in the future.”

The GOP lawmakers cited Corbett's recent signing of Act 81, which banned Internet cafés, noting that “law enforcement was outspoken ... that these cafés replicated the gaming activity in a casino without any of the controls built into the Gaming Act.”

The state's casinos are subject to far more regulation and scrutiny than bars, taverns and lottery vendors, where people would play electronic lottery games.

Pennsylvania Democrats, who opposed the deal, on Tuesday emailed to supporters a copy of a story from the United Kingdom's Daily Mail, which said Camelot's parent company set aside bonuses for executives while planning to double the price of lottery tickets. Camelot runs the U.K.'s national lottery.

Laura Pearson, a company spokeswoman, said there was no correlation between the bonuses and ticket price. She said officials at Camelot Global Services PA would not get bonuses because it is a new company.

Department of Revenue spokeswoman Elizabeth Brassell said Camelot cannot raise ticket prices in Pennsylvania without the state's approval.

“No price changes would happen without Lottery's authorization,” Brassell said. She noted that raising prices isn't necessarily a bad decision because it can significantly boost jackpots.

“Pennsylvania led the charge with the Multi-State Lottery Association to increase the Powerball ticket price from $1 to $2 last January, a change that allowed the game to offer bigger starting jackpots, feature better odds of winning and create more millionaire winners,” she said.

Corbett has said he wants to boost lottery revenue for senior citizen programs as the state faces growth in its senior population. Camelot, owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, guaranteed $34 billion for programs over 20 years, and $200 million up front to cover shortfalls.

Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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