Change does not come easy in Pennsylvania. The state is known for its large population of native born citizens and seniors and public policies that rarely change. When change is attempted in Pennsylvania it is sure to generate controversy. It should come as no surprise that Governor Corbett’s plans to privatize the lottery and change the way liquor is sold has run into stiff opposition. Since prohibition Pennsylvania has had the same liquor laws and the governor at the time said he wanted to make difficult and inconvenient for Pennsylvanians to purchase liquor. For decades politicians from both parties have criticized the state’s liquor laws but seem unable to change the state’s laws regarding the sale of liquor.
Corbett said that getting the state out of the booze business could pump $1 billion over four years into the state’s public school system. Corbett also claims that handing over the management of the Pennsylvania lottery to a British firm will result in higher profits and more money for programs that benefit seniors. Observers say it will take a lot of time, effort and litigation to get any changes accomplished. The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported that beer distributors are not happy with a proposal that would let them sell wine if they pay a onetime license fee of $150,000. Beer distributors are also unhappy because large competitors like Costco and Target could sell wine for a yearly fee of $35,000. Mark Tanczos, the head of the Malt Beverage Distribution Association of Pennsylvania, said “This plan removes restrictions on us, but does so in a way that our 1,200 family-owned businesses would be completely destroyed by these large, out-of-state corporations.”
In the meantime AFSCME, the union representing state lottery workers, has amended its original legal action and is now asking for a permanent injunction against turning over the management of the Pennsylvania Lottery to British firm Camelot. The Harrisburg Patriot News reported that lawyers for AFSCME found a 1982 advisory opinion from then Attorney General LeRoy Zimmerman saying that any changes in lottery management cannot be done on a governor’s say so but must follow the state’s rule making process. Since the Pennsylvania lottery has consistently generated profits and is one of the nation’s most successful state lotteries many are questioning Corbett’s motivations. Many politicians have taken an “if it works don’t fix it” attitude.
Concerns about the privatization deal continue to grow. Disturbing details have emerged about big executive bonuses, ticket price increases, declining revenues and staff layoffs. All of these decisions would be made by Camelot. Legislators Jay Costa and Senator Blake have suggested that representatives of Camelot and the Corbett administration come before the senate to discuss new developments and the future of the state lottery.