Push to privatize Pa. Lottery costs $4.4M and counting - abc27 WHTM

Push to privatize Pa. Lottery costs $4.4M and counting

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Like Jason Vorhees, the hockey-masked machete wielding villain in Friday the 13th, the contract to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery just won't die.

It's taken the dead out of deadline, which was recently extended for an eighth time with Camelot Global Services of the United Kingdom.

Governor Tom Corbett refuses to bury the potential deal that would let Camelot run the lottery and let the commonwealth take the money.

"The governor is tenacious about this," Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni said. "We need to fight for our seniors and that's what we're doing. We need to have a reliable funding stream for our senior programs into the future."

Treasurer Rob McCord has a different take.

"When you get to seven and eight extensions, you should start to cock an eyebrow and say something's wrong here," McCord said.

The privatization plan has major critics including all three Democrats heading Pennsylvania's statewide row offices: Attorney General Kathleen Kane, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, and Treasurer McCord.

McCord says he's especially frustrated that he's had to pay lawyers and consultants $3.4 million to work on a plan that he believes should be scrapped immediately.

"I can't hold something up because it's stupid," McCord said. "I can only hold something up if it's illegal. We're trying to highlight the waste and say if you stack up $3.4 million in one dollar bills it would be taller than the tallest building in Pennsylvania."

Corbett's office confirmed for abc27 News that the actual number is now $4.4 million. There's at least a million in bills that haven't yet hit McCord's desk.

"That is consistent with what other states are paying for consulting fees on their lotteries," said Pagni, who insists that if a contract is executed Camelot will reimburse the commonwealth for those legal and consultant's fees.

"That's money coming out of the Lottery programs," DePasquale said. "That's money that could've been used on senior programs."

DePasquale is promising to audit the $4.4 million.

"We're gonna go in and look at the receipts and find out exactly where that money went," he said.

But pro-privatization forces say the state is losing money by dragging its heels on the deal. They point out that had the deal been done a year ago, it would've gotten $25 million more guaranteed than what it generated on its own.

That is also real money that could've helped senior programs like rent and tax rebates, free hot meals, transportation, or discounted prescription drugs.

But McCord says don't  trust the word "guarantee" and be afraid when only one company is involved in the bidding process.

"I just  don't buy it," he said. "Treasurer McCord is sitting here as a fiscal watchdog saying from beginning to end something stinks about this process. It's a bad deal. It's a bad process."

A year ago, Corbett insisted he had the power to unilaterally privatize the lottery. Kane questioned that and suggested he needed legislative approval.

On Wednesday, Pagni confirmed that Corbett is now engaging "legislative leaders" in the process.

It is definitely a different strategy. Whether it yields a different result remains to be seen.


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