Thursday, December 14, 2017
Politics

Game over? House speaker sues Florida Lottery over contract

TALLAHASSEE — Starting yet another battle with the Republican governor, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Friday asked a judge to block a contract that calls for a significant expansion of the Florida Lottery.

Corcoran filed a lawsuit in a Leon County court against the state's lottery secretary, contending that he violated state law when he signed a contract with IGT Global Solutions to help run major aspects of the lottery, including the systems used to sell tickets for games such as Powerball and Mega Millions.

The $700 million contract signed by Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie calls for increasing from 2,000 to 5,500 the number of automated ticket machines capable of selling both scratch-off tickets and tickets for games such as Powerball.

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.

But, in his lawsuit, the GOP speaker maintains that the contract signed in September is illegal because it exceeds the current budget authorized for the Florida Lottery.

Lottery officials — who report to the governor — have already asked legislators for an increase to help pay for it so the expansion can be in place by the end of this year. In a statement, Corcoran said state agencies do "not have the right to obligate the taxpayers of Florida by even a penny beyond what the people's elected representatives say they can."

"This lawsuit filed today is about the rule of law and the protection of taxpayers," Corcoran added. "In addition, I hope our actions today serve as a warning to any agency playing fast and loose with the rules that the people have had enough."

Corcoran has already been feuding with Scott in recent weeks over a push by House leaders to eliminate the state's tourism marketing agency and the agency that helps lure companies to relocate to the state. Corcoran in December filed a lawsuit against Visit Florida to force the agency to disclose details of a secret deal it signed with rap star Pitbull. Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Pérez, used Twitter to release the full $1 million contract.

Jackie Schutz, a spokesperson for Scott, criticized the speaker, who is an attorney, for filing another lawsuit.

"The Florida Lottery's record sales have led to historic contributions to our state's education system and the House sues?" Schutz said. "Not shocking to have another lawsuit from a trial lawyer."

The contract approved by lottery officials is substantially larger than the previous one, even though sales for the so-called online games such as Powerball have remained steady for the past several years, except for one year when a record jackpot pushed up sales.

Lottery officials have defended it by saying 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 $1.7 billion in lottery profits is being used this year to pay for education expenses, including the state's Bright Futures college scholarships.

Florida had 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 old contract — which started in 2005 — was worth roughly $387 million. The new contract is worth as much as $717 million after lottery officials exercised an option extending it until 2031.

IGT, which beat out one other company for the contract, is represented by some high-powered lobbyists including Bill Rubin, a longtime friend of Scott, and Brian Ballard, a Republican fundraiser and lobbyist who was Florida finance chairman for President Donald Trump.

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