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State lottery deal, still unsigned, sparks clashes between Dems, governor

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Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

HARRISBURG — Democratic lawmakers and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett clashed on Wednesday over the governor's plan to privatize management of the state lottery.

Corbett has yet to sign the contract he awarded last week to Britain-based Camelot Global Services, but Department of Revenue officials hinted Corbett would do so before the end of the week. The contract then would go to Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who has 30 days to review it for “form and legality.” Corbett will speak about the lottery plan Thursday in Hershey.

House Democrats at a news conference on Wednesday blasted Corbett's lottery plan, which they claim was crafted secretly and is a bad deal for Pennsylvania senior citizens, who benefit from lottery programs.

The Corbett administration issued a news release in response saying the House Democratic Caucus is promoting “mistruths” in an effort to scuttle the contract.

“Our goal is to increase funding for senior programs so that we can ensure, as Pennsylvania's population grows, we will be able to keep up with that need,” Corbett said. “Camelot's bid commits to record-level profit growth for the Pennsylvania lottery, translating to billions of dollars for seniors.”

Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, called the deal a “boondoggle” that he predicts one day would result in the state's trying to buy its way out of the contract.

Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Penn Hills, derided the “secrecy” of the deal — details of which were not available until a Senate hearing on Monday.

They criticized the 5 percent profit margin Camelot would get, and several Democrats said the adage, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it,” applies to the lottery.

“It's my understanding they'll have keno in every tavern,” DeLuca said.

The Legislature needs to approve any expansion of gambling, the Democrats contend.

Corbett said the state had extensive meetings and phone calls with legislative staffers, two public hearings and maintained a website with information about the Camelot bid.

The plan would boost lottery revenue by allowing keno — fast-paced lottery-type numbers drawings — on terminals in taverns and clubs.

Camelot would guarantee the state $34 billion over 20 years. Company officials say they would put $200 million upfront, which the state can dip into any year if Camelot fails to meet projections.

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

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