The Pennsylvania lottery: A greedy piggy or a helpful citizen?

 The billboard depicts a caricature of a pig in a suit with a Union Jack on its lapel, holding a vacuum cleaner that is sucking dollar bills out of an elderly woman’s purse. Lottery Post, 1-9-13

Good, bad, ugly and beautiful, it all depends on your point of view, doesn’t it?  Take state lotteries for example, some people see lotteries as a painless way to raise money for worthwhile causes.  To others, lotteries are an insidious system that preys upon the poor, old and the vulnerable among us – a regressive tax.  Still, the process of legalizing lotteries has won out over the opposition time and time again.  In the fifty years since the first modern state lottery began selling tickets, most of the states in the country have added a state lottery.  The purposes to which the revenues are dedicated vary from state to state.  But whatever the purpose the revenues are used – over time the funding from the lottery becomes very important.  In California for example, the lottery has provided billions and billions of dollars to education.  Especially now in times of a state budget crisis – those lottery dollars are very important, indeed critical to funding education in the state.  Lottery funds have become important enough in most states that they have very few critics.

The only time one hears much criticism comes when the lotteries are in the process of expanding.  Such as when they add new games, linked jackpots or the slot machines, euphemistically called video lottery terminals; or as is the case in Pennsylvania when the state decides to sell the lottery to a private operator.  Tom Corbett, governor of Pennsylvania, would like to monetize the lottery – that is sell it to a private company for some much needed cash.  He is not the first governor to experiment with the idea, nor is he likely to be the last.  A year ago, Illinois sold its lottery to a private operator.  Pennsylvania has one bidder for its lottery, Camelot, the operator of the national lottery in Great Britain.

Camelot is willing to pay big bucks.  But to get a return on its investments, Camelot wants the ability to expand the lottery’s offerings and employ some new strategies, like keno in bars and online games. That is okay with Governor Corbett and he is ready to pull the trigger on the deal, but he is getting some stiff resistance.  The state treasurer general does not think the lottery can just add VLTs, keno or online games willy-nilly.  And the union of lottery employees definitely does not want to be sold to any damn foreign invaders.

The union is mounting an interesting campaign; it put up a billboard that implies the greedy English pigs are going to be taking advantage of the poor, old and vulnerable aged citizens of Pennsylvania.  Wait boys, just who do you sell your lottery tickets to?  Well, somehow an English company that does exactly what they do is a greedy pig preying on the innocent, but the union members are noble citizens working their fingers to the bone to benefit the senior citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Go figure! It is all in the eyes of the beholder, especially when the beholder is fighting to protect his or her territory.

 Lacking a precise description of the types of gaming to be deployed on video lottery terminals, it is currently impossible to determine whether such an expansion of the lottery under a private management agreement would be lawful, State Treasurer Rob McCord said today. Globe Newswire, 1-9-13

 The union that represents Pennsylvania Lottery employees is fighting Gov. Corbett’s move to privatize its operations. With a day to go until the private company’s offer is set to expire, AFSCME Council 13 is waging a strong counterattack against outsourcing the profitable lottery in the courtroom, the Statehouse, and the streets. This week, a particularly edgy — some might consider over-the-top — billboard appeared near the Capitol, skewering the British firm that is the sole bidder for the lottery, which dedicates 100 percent of its profits to programs for seniors. Lottery Post, 1-9-13


1 Response to “The Pennsylvania lottery: A greedy piggy or a helpful citizen?”

  1. 1 rexdstock1 January 9, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    The murderous fossil fuel people use the same argument: can’t live without us! Educational funding via lotteries does not mean funding could not occur otherwise…

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless Droid

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