SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn could select a private firm to manage the Illinois State Lottery as soon as next week, but some lawmakers would rather keep the lottery under state government.
Two bidders are vying for the right to privately manage the Illinois State Lottery. Earlier this week at a public hearing held in Chicago, the Northstar Lottery Group and the Camelot Group both presented their proposals to a state commission.
The Northstar Lottery Group is a combination of three different companies that already work with the Illinois Lottery, while the Camelot Group is based in the United Kingdom and oversees the United Kingdom National Lottery.
The Illinois Lottery receives more than $2 billion in annual sales, with more than $600 million going toward the state's Common School Fund.
Whichever firm obtains the contract would stand to gain up to 5 percent of all ticket and share sales, depending on the agreement. In turn, the private firm would be expected to contribute manpower and funding toward the Lottery, market to a wider range of participants and ultimately bring in more revenues.
But state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, would rather have the state continue to manage the Lottery. He also questioned the bidding process altogether, wondering how the field of bidders was whittled down to two finalists so quickly.
Intralot S.A., a Greece-based company and one of the largest lottery firms in the world, was eliminated just a week after it had submitted a bid, with no reason being given.
And because Northstar already has contracts with the Lottery, Franks questions how it would regulate its own services if it also managed the business.
"There are way too many questions here that have not been answered, and I don't think it's in the best interest of the taxpayers of the state of Illinois," he said.
Quinn is scheduled to name the winner of the 10-year management contract next Wednesday.
Last year, Quinn signed into law a multi-year, $31 billion package of public works legislation. The legislation called for a number of funding sources, including Lottery privatization, as well as expanded video gaming and increases to liquor taxes and motor vehicle fees.
State Rep. Jerry Mitchell, R-Rock Falls, said he voted for the public works package because of the widespread need for new state roads and bridges. But he remains opposed to privatizing the Lottery as a means of funding projects.
Mitchell said the state would not be able to take full advantage of the Lottery's potential growth.
"The Lottery, once it's privatized, it brings in new people. The increases (in the Lottery) are going to go to a private institution, not particularly to the state of Illinois," he said.
State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, voted against the public works package but is open to the concept of opening the Lottery to private management and possible growth.
"Like so many other rather complicated policy matters, it's all in how you do it," Righter said. "It has got great potential. The question is, are you going to carry it out in such a manner that you actually ... realize that potential? And I think that question is still out."