HARRISBURG - Gov. Corbett on Monday took a first step toward privatizing day-to-day operations of the Pennsylvania Lottery.
Corbett said he had issued a "request for qualifications" from companies seeking to manage the nation's sixth-largest lottery. He called the move an "innovative step" that could increase funding for services for the aging as record numbers of baby boomers join their ranks.
"This initiative is simply part of my administration's efforts to tap private-sector innovation to make state government work more efficiently and effectively," Corbett said in a news release. "Our state's fast-growing population of older adults means time is not on our side, and we need to maximize funding for senior programs and services in a way that does not ask taxpayers to dig any deeper into their pockets."
The 40-year-old lottery generated a record $3.2 billion in ticket sales last year.
All proceeds - nearly $1 billion last year - fund prescription drugs for seniors, as well as transportation, long-term care, and other services.
Corbett said a private management organization might adapt new technologies more quickly, develop new games, and improve retail outlet performance.
Any initial shortfall to financial returns would be assured by any private management agreement, he said.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) hailed the proposal as "thinking out of the box."
"It would increase revenue without raising taxes," said Turzai. "It's a significant step forward, and could serve as a model for liquor privatization."
Turzai said he was unsure if it would require an act of the legislature to enable the change, and would seek the governor's guidance on that.
House Democratic leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny) said his caucus had "serious reservations" about any proposal that gambles with critical health programs for seniors.
"The Pennsylvania Lottery is the lifeblood for these programs, and is a consistent national leader both in terms of sales and low operating costs," said Dermody. "Why 'fix' something that isn't broken, especially when privatizing it has the potential to hurt hundreds of thousands of senior citizens who rely on lottery-funded programs every day?"