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Nearby: Retailers, Sen. Smith Question Privatizing Pennsylvania Lottery

Some lottery retailers are unsure of what the future holds, while Democratic State Sen. Matt Smith calls the decision to hire a British-based company to run the Pennsylvania Lottery a “risky scheme.”

Yankello's became the first Sewickley business in 1980 to sell lottery tickets, according to co-partner Mike Yankello.

But now with the state poised to hire a British company to run the Pennsylvania Lottery, Yankello is concerned about what the future could hold.

Long-time clerk Richard Praskach didn't appear hopeful.

"The lottery needs to make changes, but I'm not sure this is it," he said.  

State Sen. Matt Smith is also questioning how Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration made the decision. The first-term Democratic senator from Mt. Lebanon said a hearing with the Finance Committee helped to shed light on the decision-making process by the administration, but it “does not forgive the actions taken that effectively cut the public and specifically seniors out of the process” to select the private operator.

The Corbett administration last week issued a notice of award to Camelot Global Services, a British-based company, to manage the Pennsylvania Lottery. The governor’s office has said privatizing the lottery will add billions to the state coffers to help its aging population.

But Smith called the decision a “risky scheme” and questioned the motivation of the governor.

“The administration’s decision to outsource the management of the Pennsylvania Lottery is a risky scheme for Pennsylvania that seems to rely on several unsubstantiated claims,” Smith said in a press release.

To shed more light on the deal, Alex Kovach, Camelot's managing director, and CEO Dianne Thompson, testified during Monday’s hearing, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. They said their company would work to expand the lottery’s revenue base by working to encourage more residents to buy tickets, according to the newspaper.

Smith said he is concerned about the transparency of the process and why the plans continued after the state received just one bidder. He also is unsure how plans to add more games, such as Keno, will affect state residents.

Neither Yankello nor Praskach could say how privatization would affect Yankello's or other retailers that sell lottery tickets. Praskach said there were plenty of unanswered questions, and that it all would likely depend on what Camelot planned to do. 

"They can make changes or they can keep it the way it is," Praskach said.

"If they have meetings, I hope they will get the retailers input so that we can make it better," Yankello said.

Most importantly, though, Smith said he wants more information about how the changes would affect senior programs that are funded through the lottery.

 “There are many serious questions that remain about this proposal and how it will impact vital programs and issues of concern Pennsylvania seniors,” Smith said. “After (Monday’s) hearing, I remain unconvinced that our seniors programs will be protected and that is something we cannot afford to risk.”

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