Pennsylvania nixes Camelot lotto contract, preps online gambling bill; New York pushes sports betting (again)

pennsylvania-camelot-lottery-contractGov. Tom Corbett’s plan to privatize management of the Pennsylvania Lottery hit a snag this week when state Attorney General Kathleen Kane declared the plan unconstitutional. The contract Corbett awarded in January to UK National Lottery operator Camelot allowed for an expansion of ticket sales online and for the introduction of electronic keno games in pubs and clubs, but Kane ruled this was “an unlawful extension of executive authority” since legislators had not signed off on any expansion of gaming.

Multiple state pols had already taken umbrage over the contract, criticizing the lack of consultation on the gambling expansion as well as the opaque nature of the tendering process. Kane said her ruling was based purely on the contract’s legality and didn’t express an opinion on the wisdom (or lack thereof) behind the decision to privatize the lottery management. Corbett is said to be reviewing his options.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Tina Davis had cited Corbett’s awarding of the Camelot contract as a prime motivator for crafting her online gambling legislation, which could be introduced into the state House of Representatives as early as this week. On Friday, Davis told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the cancellation of Camelot’s contract wouldn’t affect the timing of her bill. Under Davis’ bill, only existing slot and table game license holders would be eligible to offer online gambling via their own websites, and punters would need to register their bank accounts with a land-based gaming joint in order to play online.

Initially, at least, the sites would offer only online poker and blackjack. Davis, whose constituency includes the Parx casino, said these games were chosen because of their popularity, but also because “we didn’t want to discourage folks from going to the casinos. We tried to strike a balance.” License fees would be $16.5m, identical to the land-based table game license fee, and the online tax rate would be 45% of revenue, a slight improvement over the 55% rate applied to the state’s land-based casinos. However, Davis said these figures would likely change as the bill advances through the legislature. While acknowledging the debate over the bill would be lengthy and heated, Davis said there was “an urgency to get this done” as neighboring states like Maryland, Ohio and New York expand their own gaming offerings.

Speaking of, New York has become the latest state to hop on the ‘we want sports betting, too’ bandwagon. State Sen. Eric Adams has introduced S2411-2013 which proposes amending the state constitution to permit wagering on pro sports events at thoroughbred and harness racetracks plus off-track betting simulcast theaters (teletheaters). A similar legislative effort last year by state Sen. Tony Avella didn’t make much headway and this year’s push will be equally moot if New Jersey doesn’t prevail in its legal quest to overturn the federal prohibition of sports betting (PASPA). Still, once more unto the breach, right?