Shady dealings with the lottery

You want to know why we are so skeptical these days over the actions of our politicians and how the crony bureaucrats function even on the level of state government? Let us refresh the memories of those followers of ours as to the carefully politically crafted hijacking of the state’s multimillion-dollar gaming operation, better known as the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, by no other than the clever State Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana over a year ago. To better keep a better handle on the millions of dollars being raked in by this lottery bunch, Hickey carefully crafted a way to have political dominance as well as placing oversight on his easily controlled bureaucrats within the government run Department of Finance and Administration. Let’s face the fact there are a lot of people and companies making a lot of money off this state lottery besides what goes towards scholarships for worthy students. Our latest revelation comes in news that on Nov. 14, the lottery used its option to extend the contract with Scientific Games International Inc. of Alpharetta, Georgia, to continue providing scratch-off tickets and other services for the lottery until 2026. Now then, Scientific Games originally signed a seven-year contract with the newly created lottery back in 2009. Bringing this situation to light was Bruce Engstrom, a former lottery commissioner, who is critical of this decision to add 10 years to the contract of a vendor whose original contract was altered after lottery commission approval. Furthermore, Engstrom said he was concerned about extending the contract without taking competitive bids from other vendors. Oh, but wait, DF&A spokesman Jake Bleed naturally comes out and defends the decision and says extending this contract with Scientific Games International Inc. was simply a great idea and in the best interest of the lottery. So then, to make this look like just a good deal, Scientific Games agreed to reduce its commission on sales of instant tickets, which are also called scratch-off tickets, from 1.81 percent to 1.3 percent. In his propaganda speech, Bleed said, “We believe the SGI contract is a good deal for the state and look forward to working with them to make the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery the efficient, cost-effective operation that the governor and the people of Arkansas expect and deserve.” Oh, please!! We’re about to get nauseated. Here’s the deal folks and read carefully. For the fiscal year that ended in mid-2015, Scientific Games pocketed a whopping $10.47 million, which was up 1.6 percent from the previous year. Oh, and get this, Scientific Games also receives lottery money from the Points for Prize program, which awards prizes based on tickets registered by players. And get this, Michael Hyde, the lottery’s former auditor, concluded in 2012 that SGI received $7.5 million more than it should have between August 2009 and February 2012 because the lottery was paying more than agreed upon in the original contract that the lottery commission approved. Hyde’s discovery led the commission to conduct hearings and the lottery’s first director, Ernie Passailaigue resigned under pressure from those hearings in September 2011. No bidding, bureaucratic propaganda from Sen. Hickey’s cronies, big profits being made and cozy deals being struck makes us wonder, doesn’t it you?

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