Paul's Blog July 2, 2018

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"You can lead a man to Congress, but you can’t make him think."   Milton Berle

Why is it too much to ask that legislators formulate public policy that serves the interests of the people who vote for them instead of the commercial interests who fund their campaigns?  Consider two stories in today’s Morning Report.  The Pennsylvania Lottery began to offer online games just weeks ago.  Now, Pennsylvania’s casinos are threatening “all actions available to them” to force the government to prohibit the Lottery from offering online iLottery games.  In another news story, Caesars was just fined $1 million “to settle allegations that it violated public trust and confidence in the integrity of Indiana’s casino industry.”  In addition to the $1 million payment to the state, Caesars agreed to improve compliance training and enhance protocols for monitoring and vetting the communications of its employees and representatives. 

This is a real problem.  There is hardly a more important issue for state lotteries than the public and regulatory policy that proscribes how this industry operates.  These two stories reflect how that process works.  Commercial interests spare no expense to curry favor with legislators to formulate laws and regulations that favor them, and almost by definition are harmful to the state Lottery and by extension the people of the state because they effectively own the state Lottery.  Caesars was fined $1 million for its attempts to influence legislation.  And the Pennsylvania casino industry is threatening all manner of actions to derail the integrity of the political process that determines what is best for the people of Pennsylvania.  State Lotteries respect the democratic process that empowers elected officials to act as representatives of the people and determine public and regulatory policy on that basis.  We wonder why policy decisions are made that are so clearly contrary to the interests of the people, and now we know.  Most state lotteries continue to be denied the right to sell traditional lottery products online even while the country is littered with hundreds of casinos. Insofar as the goals are to channel maximum economic benefit for the general public, prevent problem gaming, and operate with integrity and security, games-of-chance should be operated by the state’s own Lottery.  The legislative process should at least be allowed to function impartially, weighing the pros and cons of different regulatory frameworks without pressure to favor private interests.    

State governments are now deciding on how to regulate sports-betting.  Let’s hope state legislators and governors appreciate the efficacy of their own state Lottery to be the one to operate sports-betting on behalf of the people.