Corbett is taking a gamble on state lottery outsourcing
Gov. Tom Corbett has held his cards too close to his vest in his multi-billion dollar bet on private management of the lucrative state lottery - without consulting the state Legislature, much less seeking its approval.
Legislative hearings were conducted only after the governor decided to cast the state's lot with Camelot Global Services LLC, a British company that was the sole bidder to manage the $3.5 billion enterprise.
And those hearings produced few answers about the details of Camelot's contractual goal of generating $34 billion in lottery profits for the state over 20 years, an average of $1.7 billion a year. The lottery now clears about $1.1 billion on its $3.5 billion in sales.
Generally, Camelot plans to vastly expand gambling as the means to increase returns - a decision with social and public policy repercussions far beyond state revenue, that should not be left to a private enterprise interested in profit.
Camelot has said that its marketing analysis has found that many more Pennsylvanians can be induced to gamble on the lottery.
Now, some lawmakers are concerned not because they worry about the negative social consequences of expanded gambling, but because they fear its impact on the state government's other gambling cash cow - casinos.
Several legislative leaders - Corbett's fellow Republicans - say they want Camelot's contract rewritten to preclude the introduction of online interactive video and table games, to prevent the lottery from competing with casinos. If the administration does not do so, the lawmakers say they will introduce legislation requiring it.
Meanwhile, another bill has been introduced precluding Camelot personnel from making campaign contributions to anyone seeking state office. That's a good point. But given the 20-year contract approved by the governor, and the ease with which the deal has evaded legislative approval, Camelot officials apparently have no need to pad legislative campaign accounts.
Because the governor has decided to not seek legislative approval up front, lawmakers are in the position of trying to put the horse back in the barn - defining the scope of gambling expansion and of Camelot's control after the fact, like a gambler trying to cover a lost bet.
That is a poor way to conduct public business, especially gambling expansion.