State takes bold, forward step to privatize lottery

For once, Pennsylvania is taking the bold, forward step. Late last week, the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett approved takeover of Pennsylvania’s $3.5 billion Lottery to Camelot Global Services, the British national lottery operator.

Administration officials maintain the Camelot commitment of $34 billion in lottery profits over 20 years is a better deal than state employees can deliver. Pennsylvania has growing demand for state services for the elderly that are underwritten by the lottery. Judging from its track record, Camelot probably is best qualified to provide the capital to meet those needs.

And there is the underrated advantage of taking the state out of lottery management business and turning it over to a private entity.

Pennsylvania will join Indiana and Illinois as the third state doing that with its lottery. For once the state will be ahead of the curve rather than behind it. The state of Indiana has done particularly well blazing the privatization trail. That’s good company to be in.

Of course, there will be naysayers, protests and political self-preservation groups telling the state’s elderly that their future is being placed in shaky hands. That comes with any idea that includes vision, especially the turning over of a government product into private management.

The state’s leaders need to show some spine, move ahead with this idea.

And then, once they’ve dipped their toes into privatization waters, they can, once and for all, turn attention to the long-overdue privatization of the liquor store system. In that arena, Pennsylvania is clearly behind the curve, with only Utah joining the Keystone State in maintaining a government-controlled liquor sales system.

After that second mountain is cleared, serious discussion can commence on turning the turnpike system – debt-ridden and toll-increase happy – over to private concerns.

There’s nothing magical about any of this. The state has plenty of expensive propositions it will always need to control. It should create the capital to start meeting those obligations for the future by selling off the assets it has, most of them outdated government-management models.