Oh how the plot continues to thicken. We're talking, of course, about the private management contract bid process for the Illinois Lottery. For more than a week we had been told the Illinois Lottery would announce the finalists in the bid process on or before Aug. 12. Initially, we had been led to believe the names of all bidders would be released, but then it became evident the most we could hope for would be the names of the finalists in contention for the management contract.
Then late yesterday, we received an email from Lottery spokesman Tracy Owens informing us that the Lottery has now decided not to release the names of any finalists until Aug. 30. That is when the finalists will be published in a formal hearing notice prior to a scheduled Sept. 7 public hearing at which finalists reportedly will present their proposals and answer questions.
Owens did not return repeated calls to explain this sudden about-face. In his email he would only say that "because final bids have not yet been received," the Department of Revenue will not make known the finalists at this time. Why the so-called final bids have suddenly become a point of contention is unclear. But those final bids are apparently connected to the private management agreement (PMA), a document that spells out exactly what the new private manager of the Illinois Lottery will be expected to accomplish. That PMA is believed to still be in a fluid form, but finalists will apparently have to accept the terms of the PMA to proceed in the bid process.
Though the Illinois Lottery refuses to divulge the names of finalists in the bidding process, there are believed to be only two : the Northstar Lottery Group and the Camelot Group. Intralot, sources said, was informed on Monday that it had been dropped from contention. Reached Thursday morning, a Northstar Lottery spokeswoman said she was unaware the Lottery had decided not to release the names of bidders on the previously-announced Aug. 12 date. She would not independently confirm that Northstar is still in the running for the private management contract at the Illinois Lottery. "It's up to the Lottery to make these announcements," said the Northstar spokeswoman.
As the process now stands, Gov. Pat Quinn is scheduled to pick a private manager for the Lottery on Sept. 15. But if one of what are believed to be just two bidders left in the process should drop out between now and then, the entire process could be upended. The rules of the bid process, sources said, require that there be at least two bidders vying for the contract.