House Dems blast lottery deal, vow to fight it

The steps of the Capitol Rotunda were filled with House Democratic members upset at Governor Tom Corbett's plan to let a private firm manage the Pennsylvania Lottery.

“I'm here to tell you today that Governor Corbett has done what people have been trying to do for years and that is unite the Democratic caucus,” said Rep. Frank Dermody, House Democratic leader.

They complained that the deal with Camelot Global Services of the United Kingdom was rushed, and that senior programs will suffer if it's enacted. In short, they insist it's a bad deal for the commonwealth.

“If this were a different administration with a different track record, I don't think there would be such skepticism,” said Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster). “But the reality is this administration cannot be trusted.”

Democrats insist the governor cannot unilaterally expand gaming without legislative approval, though he insists he can. A court likely decides that.

But how about casinos? Can they ask for their $50 million dollar licensing fees back if the lottery expands with keno and online games?

Yes, says Rep. Rosita Youngblood (D-Philadelphia), minority chair of the House Gaming Oversight Committee. She worries that expanded lottery gaming could hurt casinos and mom-and-pop lottery retailers.  

“With one stroke of the pen, the governor has completely ignored the legislative process that will expand gaming to every convenience store, grocery store, bar and tavern in this state,” Youngblood said. She also maintains lottery expansion is illegal without the Legislature.

Corbett is expected to sign the deal in the next few days and dismisses Democrats' complaints. He says the deal wasn't rushed and the process was completely transparent, that the bid and documents were all public and above board. He also says his only motivation is to increase funding for senior programs.

So the deal is likely coming. So are the lawsuits. And the questions.

“Will this pending contract mainly serve to enrich a British corporation that has done no previous work in Pennsylvania and is owned by a Canadian teachers union pension fund?” Dermody asked.

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