Camelot sole bidder for Pennsylvania Lottery; Sands to eclipse regional rivals


camelot-pennsylvania-lottery-sands-bethlehemHaving long ago expressed its intention to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery, Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration has identified UK National Lottery operator Camelot Global Services as one of the bidders. Actually, Camelot is the sole remaining bidder, with two unidentified firms having reportedly backed out. If awarded the contract, Camelot says it will generate $34b in profits over the next two decades; representing annual growth of 3% to 4%. In exchange, Camelot will receive a maximum 5% of the profits. Camelot says its offer is good until Dec. 31.

The announcement has the state’s critics up in arms, saying they’ve been kept in the dark since Corbett’s administration started this process in April and now they’re being presented with a single option yea-or-nay ultimatum that needs to be resolved between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Though not quite the same situation, there are nonetheless parallels with criticisms of the District of Columbia’s ‘decision’ to legalize online gaming.) The Associated Press quoted a lottery worker union rep questioning the need to privatize at all when Camelot’s profit targets basically dovetail with the traditional rate of growth of the state-run operation. Adding more fuel to the fire is the fact that the law requires the lottery to ante up 27% of its annual sales to the state. That number is scheduled to rise to 30% by 2015, but Corbett plans to ask the legislature to forestall this change for the life of Camelot’s contract.

No matter who ends up running it, the lottery will be opening up new revenue streams like keno and online ticket sales and games, maybe even an online poker offering regulated either at the federal (slim) or intrastate (less slim) level. But even if Camelot gets the gig, the state will ultimately decide what Pennsylvanians can and cannot gamble on online.

In other state news, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has approved an application by Sands Bethlehem to add 31 more gaming tables to its current 152. Sands already outperforms Pennsylvania’s other 10 casinos in this department, claiming nearly a quarter of last month’s statewide table revenue total. The extra tables are expected to allow Sands to eclipse the other regional table titans, Caesars Atlantic City, the Borgata and West Virginia’s Hollywood Casino. Even sweeter, while the state of Pennsylvania claims for itself an unholy 55% of casino slots revenue, tables are only dinged 12%. Small wonder Sands is shifting 837 slots elsewhere to make room for the new money-printing presses.

While it was handing out candy canes to Sands, the PGCB was dispensing lumps of coal to the state’s more naughty casino kids. The largest lump went to the operators of Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino, who were fined $45k for multiple instances in which adults aged 19 and 20 gained access to the casino’s gaming floor and/or bar. We sincerely hope when these ‘minors’ were booked, they listed their occupation as ‘US Marine with two tours of duty in Afghanistan,’ just to add the proper perspective to their unlawful behavior. For shame! Now go defend our freedom.

By the way, did you know that before Tom Corbett was a governor, he was an astronaut… of sorts?