The push to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery may have slowed down and opened up this week.
During an unrelated news conference Thursday, Governor Tom Corbett conceded that a December 31 deadline to sign a contract with a bidder is likely to be pushed into January. He said he is also considering a public hearing on the bid by British firm Camelot to manage lottery operations.
But that didn't slow critics of the privatization plan, who held a mocking news conference with faux lottery tickets that proclaimed the only winners in the proposed bid would be Camelot and friends of the governor.
"[This is] just stunning stupidity," said Eric Epstein of the activist group Rock the Capital. "Why gamble with senior citizen programs?"
But Corbett asks, if Camelot can make more money and send more money to fund senior programs, why wouldn't Pennsylvania pursue a contract?
"If they [Camelot] don't perform, we can always bring it back [to Pennsylvania] but we believe that their projections could be better than what we do," Corbett said.
Activists are also criticizing the speed and secrecy surrounding the Camelot deal.
"The governor has to learn that the people of Pennsylvania want transparency," said Gene Stilp. "They don't want to privatize things without knowing the facts, and right now the fact are not out there."
Several lawmakers, mostly Democrats, have called the lottery privatization plan a back room deal. Corbett bristles at that suggestion and says it has been discussed for a year and there was even a hearing on it in the House of Representatives.
"This didn't sneak up on anybody in the Legislature that was paying attention," Corbett said. "If they weren't paying attention, then that's not my fault."
Epstein pays close attention to the Capitol. He's concerned that there's only one bidder.
"If the plan has value, and it may, let's take time to vet it. But let's get competitive bids," he said. "What makes me really uncomfortable is anytime you have a single-source contractor, I think you're leaving money on the table."
Epstein also calls it a risky political move for Corbett, potentially fatal to his re-election effort in two years.
"I don't see him getting past Marcellus Shale," Epstein said. "I don't see him getting past Sandusky. I don't see him cutting public education, and I don't see him getting past putting senior citizens up on an auction block."