State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Senate leaders waiting for response to letter asking for tweaked contract

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 23, 2013 7:14 PM
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Photo by Craig Layne/witf

The top GOP leaders in the state Senate are waiting on an explanation from the Corbett administration about the keno game machines planned for the Pennsylvania Lottery.

Camelot Global Services, poised to take over the operations of the state lottery, has guaranteed higher profits over a 20-year period if it’s able to expand games to include thousands of keno machines at bars and restaurants statewide.

In a letter sent January 16, several state senators, including Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, said the monitor-based games in Camelot’s plan seem suspiciously close to slot machines.

“[I]if the lottery vendor is permitted to use play station consoles, smart phones or personal computers to play internet games or monitor-based games… there will be no difference between that operation and those in casinos, except that the casinos are subject to far more scrutiny than bars, taverns or other lottery vendors,” wrote the senators.

The letter goes on to request the contract be rewritten to clarify that Camelot will not be able to install “interactive video games or simulated slots or table games as defined in the gaming law.” 

The similarity is a sticking point with critics because allowing video lottery terminals and video poker would require legislation. The executive branch alone doesn’t have the authority to allow video lottery terminals. This has been argued by Republican and Democratic legislators, as well as the state treasurer.

But Corbett administration officials were careful to draw the distinction between keno machines and slot machines at a Wednesday hearing before the state House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee.

Peter Tartline, Executive Deputy Secretary of the governor’s Budget Office, said the contract between Camelot and the commonwealth would not allow video poker, games resembling video poker, or video lottery terminals.

A briefing booklet from the governor’s office further distinguishes the planned keno machines from existing slot machines. The keno game would be played on a “monitor-based” or “terminal-based” machine that would be hooked up to a Pennsylvania Lottery central computer system. That system would allow players to compete against each other. By contrast, the administration argues, slot machines allow players to compete “against the machine.”

Elizabeth Brassell, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Revenue, further explains the difference between Camelot’s planned keno game machines and slot machines in the mp3 below.

Brassell said the administration is still developing a response to the state senators’ letter sent last week.

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