New Castle News


February 19, 2013

Our Opinion: Legislature must take up task of reviewing privatization plan

NEW CASTLE — We think Attorney General Kathleen Kane made the right decision last week regarding the Pennsylvania Lottery.

Kane’s office reviewed Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to privatize and expand the lottery, and determined what the governor had agreed to was contrary to the constitution.

A key concern of Kane’s — and ours — was the notion the governor could add online gambling and machines in bars and restaurants without legislative approval.

The attorney general’s ruling does not kill the state’s deal to have Camelot Global Service take over operation of the lottery. But it effectively makes the Legislature responsible. Lawmakers now must get involved if Corbett’s plan is to proceed.

The other option is for the governor to take Kane to court to challenge her decision. No such move has been announced at this point.

And we would caution against it. Despite Corbett’s protestations, we never understood how he determined he had the authority to expand gambling in the manner this agreement does.

Corbett sought to compare online gambling to the state’s participation in the nationwide Powerball lottery game. But the two are far, far different.

As to the notion of privatization of the lottery, we are open to the concept. However, it’s unclear from the numbers being presented that the move would create a benefit for Pennsylvania.

Although Camelot would be called upon to generate more lottery revenue than is being collected now, that figure is based on the expansion of gambling. Assuming the Legislature approves more gambling, we would want to see comparisons between what the state would generate on its own and what Camelot would guarantee.

Corbett cautions that his plan is designed to raise more money to fund programs for the elderly in Pennsylvania. While that’s a commendable goal, the use of gambling to generate cash for these programs is a factor that warrants consideration.

To what degree does the commonwealth wish to encourage additional gambling by its citizens to pay for these sorts of things? We note it wasn’t too long ago that Pennsylvania considered most forms of gambling illegal vice. Now the attitude is that it can be expanded substantially through gubernatorial edict.

Assuming the Legislature decides to take up Corbett’s lottery privatization plan, rather than allow it to die, lawmakers owe it to the citizens of the commonwealth to consider everything involved. There are matters involved beyond merely making more money.

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