Oh how the plot thickens as we get nearer to the moment when Gov. Pat Quinn will select one from what are believed to be several bidders for the private management contract to run the Illinois Lottery. Quinn is supposed to decide on a private manager for the Lottery on or before Sept. 15.
We heard again from Quinn, through a press spokeswoman, in regards to concerns we voiced about the so-called transparent nature of the bid process. Among other things, we wondered why it was necessary to withhold the names of people on the evaluation committee who are supposed to advise Quinn on which of the bidders is best suited to get the private management contract. Last night, Quinn's spokeswoman told us that disclosing the evaluators "would substantially deviate from standard operating procedures, undermine the integrity of the process and potentially taint the outcome."
Taint, of course, is something that Illinois government unfortunately can't seem to fully shake, so we'll leave that out of the discussion for now. But Quinn's latest response begs the question why it is necessary to follow "standard operating procedures" in selecting a private manager for the Lottery. Quinn could just as easily demand a fresh and truly transparent bid process, but, so far, he seems willing to settle for the same old way of doing things in Illinois, even with the Lottery, which is such an important revenue stream for the state.
Meanwhile, new information has surfaced about just how much the Northstar Lottery Group bid does indeed appear to represent a business-as-usual approach to managing the Lottery. Though it was not revealed at the time Northstar Lottery Group announced its formation last week, another partner in the Northstar contingent is believed to be Igor, an Illinois firm that currently distributes Lottery tickets around the state, services Lottery equipment and has longstanding ties to the Illinois Lottery.
In another intriguing twist, just as Gtech and Scientific Games have at the last minute joined forces under the Northstar Lottery Group banner, sources say both Gtech and Scientific Games are also deeply involved in the project to put games of skill (aka poker games) into taverns around the state. That project, as it turns out, is being spearheaded by the Illinois Gaming Board concurrently with the private management bid process for the Lottery, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Revenue. So, it becomes obvious that if Northstar succeeds in winning the lottery private management contract, Gtech and Scientific Games could have quite a huge stake in the gambling business in Illinois.
As for that evaluation committee that will make a recommendation to Quinn about who gets the private management contract, a Lottery spokesman told us again this morning that the Lottery fully intends to keep under wraps evaluation committee member names. But sources said bidders in contention for the Lottery management contract are expected to meet with that evaluation committee in a matter of days.
It's unclear whether the identities of the evaluation committee members will be made known to representatives of the firms bidding for the Lottery management contract. At least one source said the evaluation committee member names could very well be kept secret during these upcoming meetings. All part of the effort, we suppose, to keep the bid process transparent and untainted.