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Cautious Praise for PA Lottery Deal Aired in Committee Hearing

Pennsylvania’s top Republican senators are asking Gov. Tom Corbett to make it clear that a privately-run Pennsylvania Lottery won't be able to compete with casinos through online gambling.  The request was made public on the same day a state House committee held a hearing on the deal to privatize the operations of the Lottery.

Sens. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson County), Dominic Pileggi (R-Chester County) and Pat Browne (R-Lehigh County) wrote to Corbett last week noting that casino owners have been quiet about Corbett's plans for the lottery to expand the scope of its gambling offerings in Pennsylvania.

The senators say they want the contract with Camelot Global Services rewritten to prohibit interactive video games or simulated slot machines or table games, even if there aren't plans currently for such games.

The Corbett administration has finalized a 20- to 30-year contract with the British-based lottery operator to manage the state-owned lottery.  An administration spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the letter Tuesday.

In the meantime, Ron Barth, CEO of LeadingAge P-A, said if privatizing the Pennsylvania Lottery will guarantee additional funding for senior programs, that’s a plus, but the most in-demand programs will still need more help.   

“It is appropriate to be thinking in terms of using those funds for all senior services. But the lottery fund in and of itself is not going to solve the problem. We’re going to need more General Fund revenues as well,” said Barth.

Barth and other advocates testified before the House Aging and Older Services Committee Tuesday. 

Camelot is promising higher profits for the lottery but only if it’s also able to expand gambling.   

Vicki Hoak, head of the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, told the committee her group is pleased with the pending lottery privatization deal, but she wants the state to take a long look at how the funds are distributed. 

“As we move into another chapter, we must also commit to ensuring that the lottery funds work in sync to optimize all the services and supports we provide to older Pennsylvanians,” said Hoak.  

She adds that lottery funds should not be used to pay the state’s 48 percent share for Medicaid, which supports things like nursing homes.

The Republican chairman of the state House Aging and Older Services Committee shares that sentiment.  Rep. Tim Hennessy (R-Montgomery County) is planning to introduce a bill requiring lottery proceeds to be used exclusively on services for older Pennsylvanians.

House lawmakers will hear from Camelot executives Wednesday in a second hearing.