Florida Lot­tery plans ma­jor ex­pan­sion

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS -

AP: THE FLORIDA Lot­tery – which just reg­is­tered more than US$6 bil­lion in an­nual sales – is in line for a large ex­pan­sion due to a mas­sive new con­tract that state of­fi­cials signed this month.

Lot­tery of­fi­cials, who re­port to Gov­er­nor Rick Scott, signed a 13-year con­tract worth more than US$700 mil­lion with IGT Global So­lu­tions cov­er­ing ma­jor as­pects of the lot­tery, in­clud­ing the sys­tems used to sell tick­ets for games such as Power­ball and Mega Mil­lions.

The con­tract is sub­stan­tially larger than the ex­ist­ing one, even though sales for the so­called on­line games such as Power­ball have re­mained steady for the last sev­eral years ex­cept for one year when a record jack­pot pushed up sales.

BIG CHANGE

One big change in the con­tract is a plan to nearly triple the num­ber of au­to­mated ticket ma­chines ca­pa­ble of sell­ing both scratch-off tick­ets and those for on­line games such as Power­ball. This would in­crease the num­ber of ma­chines statewide from 2,000 to 5,500. The con­tract also calls for a new smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tion that will let play­ers check their tick­ets and al­low them to en­ter sec­ond chance sweep­stakes that the Lot­tery also of­fers.

Lot­tery of­fi­cials say the cost is tied to in­creased sales pro­jec­tions and that the amount paid to IGT will go down if there is a down­turn in sales.

They also have es­ti­mated that the new con­tract will bring in more rev­enue. Nearly US$1.7 bil­lion in lot­tery prof­its are be­ing used this year to pay for ed­u­ca­tion ex­penses, in­clud­ing the state’s Bright Fu­tures col­lege schol­ar­ship.

“We are in the busi­ness to sell tick­ets and gen­er­ate money for ed­u­ca­tion,” said Con­nie Barnes, a spokes­woman for the Florida Lot­tery.

But State Sen­a­tor Rob Bradley ques­tioned the plans by lot­tery of­fi­cials to ex­pand their gam­bling op­er­a­tions. He noted that this past year leg­is­la­tors con­sid­ered bills that would have lim­ited some of the tick­ets they can sell.

“If there are por­tions of the agree­ment that re­sult in ex­pan­sion of the lot­tery, that’s a cause of con­cern,” said Bradley, a north Florida Repub­li­can who has been in charge of the Se­nate com­mit­tee that reg­u­lates gam­bling.

“This is a gov­ern­mentspon­sored en­ter­prise,” Bradley added. “We have an ex­tra obli­ga­tion to make sure we are not prey­ing on in­di­vid­u­als ad­dicted to gam­ing. We have to make sure we are not fo­cus­ing on pop­u­la­tions who can’t af­ford to be spend­ing their hard-earned dol­lars on gam­ing.”

CON­TRACT

Florida cur­rently has a con­tract with Gtech, one of the world’s lead­ing lot­tery op­er­a­tors that merged with In­ter­na­tional Game Tech­nol­ogy and changed its name. IGT Global So­lu­tions is a sub­sidiary. State records show the cur­rent con­tract — which started in 2005 — is worth roughly US$387 mil­lion. The new con­tract is worth as much as US$717 mil­lion af­ter lot­tery of­fi­cials ex­er­cised an op­tion ex­tend­ing it to 13 years.

IGT, which beat out one other com­pany for the con­tract, is rep­re­sented by some high­pow­ered lob­by­ists, in­clud­ing Bill Ru­bin, a long-time friend of Scott, and Brian Ballard, a Repub­li­can fundraiser and lob­by­ist who also cur­rently serves as Florida fi­nance chair­man for GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump.

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