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Illinois Is Putting Lottery on Block for Quick Payoff

Illinois LotteryIllinois Lottery: Illinois Is Putting Lottery on Block for Quick Payoff

The state of Illinois yesterday took the first steps in selling its state lottery system, hoping to attract as much as $10 billion from investors who, in return, would own a monopoly that could turn out to be the biggest jackpot yet.

The sale, which may occur as early as the spring, would not be the first privatization of public property - both Chicago and Indiana have recently earned billions of dollars by signing long-term leases with private companies to run toll roads. But the proposed lottery sale is almost certain be one of the largest privatizations of a state-run program, and it raises concerns that states, some of them critically short of cash, are selling valuable assets that could otherwise provide consistent streams of revenue.

Under the proposed sale, Illinois would receive a multibillion-dollar one-time payment, and the lottery's new owners would receive all revenue and profit for 75 years.

Indiana is also considering selling its lottery, and bids are due later this month. That sale is expected to raise more than $1 billion upfront and annual payments of $200 million. Midway Airport in Chicago, toll roads in Pennsylvania and the New Jersey Turnpike are all potentially on the block.

Illinois officials say selling the lottery, which collected revenue of about $2 billion and profits around $630 million last year, will give the business marketing and technological heft that the government cannot now provide.

"This is fundamentally a retail business, and governments are not equipped to manage retail businesses," said John Filan, the chief operating officer of the state of Illinois. "Gaming is getting so competitive around the world that we're worried our revenues could go down unless there is retail expertise."

Opponents of lottery privatization disagree. They argue that many states, including California, New York and Florida, have hired companies like GTech, of Providence, R.I., to run their lotteries, gaining private-industry expertise without selling a valuable asset. Despite its public ownership, Illinois increased its lottery's revenue by more than 15 percent from 2003 to 2005, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

"These are very healthy businesses," said Melissa Kearney, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Maryland. "It's unclear exactly what is gained by selling a lottery, except for a huge pot of money that legislators can start spending right away."

Other critics say there is also a risk of selling the lottery for too little. "If it turns out this thing is worth more than $10 billion, then they've denied future citizens hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues just so they can temporarily plug a hole in the dike," said Dave Schulz, director of the Infrastructure Technology Institute at Northwestern University, and Chicago's budget director in the mid-1980s.

But lotteries' declining profitability could make a high price tag more attractive.

"Lotteries used to be highly profitable," said Michael Jones, who ran the Illinois lottery from 1981 to 1985 and is now the director of Independent Lottery Research in Chicago. "Nowadays, that profitability as a percentage of sales has declined dramatically."

Taking lotteries out of state hands, however, could raise tricky policy issues as private operators strive for maximum revenue.

"As a government agency, lotteries are bound by the duty of care that a government has to its citizens," said Rachel Volberg, director of Gemini Research, based in Northampton, Mass. "A private operator is not bound by any duty of care." Private lottery operators could be more likely to advertise aggressively, Ms. Volberg said, particularly among people susceptible to gambling addiction and those who can ill afford to spend money on lottery tickets.

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, a Democrat, first floated the idea of privatizing the state's lottery while seeking re-election last May. At the time, Mr. Blagojevich estimated that the sale's proceeds would finance a four-year building and education plan for schools. Under the proposal, $6 billion would be set aside to provide the schools with $650 million a year for the next 18 years, slightly more than what they received last year in lottery income.

At the time he made the proposal, Illinois Republicans charged that his real motivation was to keep State Senator James Meeks, an independent from Chicago, from entering the gubernatorial race. Mr. Meeks, an influential black leader, had threatened a challenge if education financing was not increased.

Selling the Illinois lottery would require approval from the state Legislature, which, in turn would determine how the proceeds are spent.

Many states banned privately operated lotteries after a series of political scandals in the 1800s. Starting in the 1960s, public lotteries began to reappear. In 2005, state lotteries took in more than $52 billion, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

State governments still typically avoid some marketing tactics that they consider politically objectionable. Massachusetts, for instance, banned almost all lottery advertising in the late 1990s, after voters and politicians complained that the tactics victimized poorer residents.

But that may change if lotteries are privately owned.

"Right now, states don't sell lottery tickets in adult book stores, or next door to welfare offices, because lottery directors know that they can be fired by politicians," said I. Nelson Rose, a professor at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, Calif., who studies gambling, and has advised the Illinois Gaming Board on other matters. "You won't see such hesitation among private companies. Those are great places to sell."

Illinois officials say that even after the lottery is sold, the new owners would be required to comply with state regulations regarding advertising and sales.

But Mr. Rose pointed out that once private owners controlled the state lottery, they would have an incentive to lobby legislators to loosen the rules.

"Illinois has riverboat casinos and horse racing, and they've becoming major political powers," he said. "The lottery's new owners won't be any different."

Other recent municipal privatization projects in Indianapolis, New Orleans, Atlanta and elsewhere have struggled with charges of corruption and with customer complaints.

In Atlanta, residents began complaining about brown brackish water after a French company, Suez, was hired to run the city's water system in 1999. Another French company, Veolia, was hired to run public waterworks in New Orleans, but has been accused of illegally discharging sewage into the Mississippi River on dozens of occasions. In Indianapolis, officials had to cancel school sessions and ask citizens to boil their drinking water in 2005 after a failure at a privately run water-treatment plant.

Goldman Sachs and UBS are advising the state of Illinois in the current dealings. Mark Florian, a managing director in the Goldman Sachs Municipal Finance and Infrastructure Group, said that demand would come from bidders already in the industry as well as funds that invest in public projects and in private equity funds flush with cash. Another alternative on the table would be an initial public offering.

Goldman Sachs, which has a $6.5 billion infrastructure fund, will not bid, Mr. Filan said.

And Mr. Jones of Independent Lottery Research added, "It's about time that lottery performance, lottery potential and where lottery funds go become something that the people who play the lottery debate and ask questions about, whether it's in a privatization scenario or in reaction to a privatization scenario."

New York Times

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8 comments. Last comment 10 years ago by dvdiva.
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psykomo's avatar - animal shark.jpg

United States
Member #4877
May 30, 2004
5146 Posts
Offline
Posted: January 23, 2007, 10:01 am - IP Logged

"Little People".....LUV,s ....TUNA

  but,........YES........(there).........I$$$$$$$$.....A.......Buttttttt!!

  and....something$$$$$$$$.....SMELL$

  about......Thi$$$$$$ "DEAL"

LET's RAISE ..MIN.-WAGE


too........$15.00 BUCKs an HOUR for ALL......NOT SOME!!!!!!!

and remove sales taxes on ALL food and clothes items!!!!!!!!!!!!

LOL

PSYKOMOSad Cheers  DON't FORGET.....BEVERAGE TAXES either!!!!


 


    United States
    Member #3676
    February 10, 2004
    425 Posts
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    Posted: January 23, 2007, 10:23 am - IP Logged

    Good let capitalism decide this. And hopefully to compete with other gambling interests lotteries will increase payback percentages and give us all a better chance.

      wizeguy's avatar - animaniacs04

      United States
      Member #15143
      May 10, 2005
      414 Posts
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      Posted: January 24, 2007, 11:21 am - IP Logged

      I am against privatization of state run lotteries!  I feel any 'gains' from doing so would only be an illusion.

        psykomo's avatar - animal shark.jpg

        United States
        Member #4877
        May 30, 2004
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        Posted: January 24, 2007, 3:24 pm - IP Logged

        I am against privatization of state run lotteries!  I feel any 'gains' from doing so would only be an illusion.

        IF Yo can't trust..Illinois

        PartyWHO CAN...Hyper..."Little People"?

        TRUSTNo Pity!No Pity!White BounceWhite BounceSantaNoelChristmas

          Bradly_60's avatar - disney37
          Atlantic Mine, Michigan
          United States
          Member #416
          June 23, 2002
          1614 Posts
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          Posted: January 24, 2007, 4:51 pm - IP Logged

          That would be interesting.  If a private company does own the lottery will then increase payouts as a way to compete in the marketplace?  I mean lotteries pay on average 50% back as prizes because of the way the lottery was set up but if someone else gets their hands on it will that change?  It seems like a scetchy plan though.  The money would be nice now but putting a state ran operations in the hands of private companies could lead to many problems if the private owners have complete control over the lottery.

          Brad

            Badger's avatar - adu50016 NorthAmericanBadger.jpg
            Wisconsin
            United States
            Member #1303
            March 27, 2003
            1508 Posts
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            Posted: January 26, 2007, 8:41 am - IP Logged

            Given how fast and irresponsibly state (and Fed for that matter) politicians run through any heap of cash they get, states selling their lotteries will soon have none of that money left.

            And then they will plead they need more income and make excuses for raising your taxes.

            ============

            How can you tell if a politician is lying?

            Answer: His lips are moving.

              Badger's avatar - adu50016 NorthAmericanBadger.jpg
              Wisconsin
              United States
              Member #1303
              March 27, 2003
              1508 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: January 26, 2007, 8:43 am - IP Logged

              LET's RAISE ..MIN.-WAGE


              too........$15.00 BUCKs an HOUR for ALL......NOT SOME!!!!!!!

               

              Yes, that would be interesting.  I'd be out of a job because my company would have to let everyone go and close.

              ============

              How can you tell if a politician is lying?

              Answer: His lips are moving.

                dvdiva's avatar - 8ball

                United States
                Member #2338
                September 17, 2003
                2063 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: January 26, 2007, 9:44 am - IP Logged

                If privatization is so good maybe all the financial management of the state and Chicago should be in private hands and the mayor, legislature and city coucil should find new jobs instead of mismanaging the state and city.

                Of course if voters there anen't bright enough to hire financially responsible people they deserve what they get.

                The private group might insist on fixing Mega soon though.

                One also wonders if the payout percentage changes will you even know since the freedom of information act doesn't cover private enterprises. If they become computerized there would be a big insentive to have the first "fixed" lotteries to avoid paying out on pick 3/4 games and scratch tickets. They could always use the Indiana lottery as an example for that.