It ain't over til it's over. And from everything we've been hearing in the wake of Gov. Pat Quinn's decision Wednesday to award the Illinois Lottery private management contract to the Northstar Lottery Group, Quinn's choice -- and everything that led to it -- is being looked at very carefully by a lot of people who have had questions for weeks about how the bid process has played out.
Documents posted at www.IllinoisLottery.com have only raised more questions in the minds of several sources, who have been carefully analyzing what the data has revealed about the bid process. And more importantly, what it hasn't.
At least the answer to one big question about who actually selected the Illinois Lottery evaluation committee was immediately provided to us when we posed it this morning. Brian Hamer, head of the lllinois Department of Revenue, was responsible for picking the curious cross-section of state executives tasked with scoring the bids of three contenders for the Illinois Lottery private management contract.
The answer to a second question we posed, namely the actual identities of the evaluators listed only as "evaluator 1," "evaluator 2" and so on in the scoring document posted online, has not yet been provided, even as some observers wonder what credible credentials some of these evaluators brought to the table to qualify them to sit on the committee. A Lottery spokeswoman told us late Friday the earliest we could get an answer about the evaluator identities is Monday.
Another question hanging out there pertains to the political connections of some of the committee members. What would Illinois government be, after all, without its political connections.
At Wednesday's press conference, Quinn and Lottery acting superintend Jodie Winnett made it sound like a no-brainer to go with Northstar Lottery Group because it simply promised to generate more Lottery profits for the state over the next five years than did the other finalist, the Camelot Group. But as Winnett revealed at that press conference Wednesday, Northstar could have wiggle room when its comes to generating the monies it said it would in its management proposal.
Buried in the private management agreement, per Winnett, are clauses that allow the private manager to request arbitration if certain circumstances should arise that might legitimately preclude Northstar from reaching its revenue and profit goals. Asked what such a circumstance might be, Winnett said a new casino in Chicago could possibly push Northstar to seek to amend its contract with the state.
Don't be surprised if more surprises about this bid process begin to surface in the days and weeks to come. And before any binding contracts are signed in about six weeks, don't be surprised, sources tell us, if Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is asked to take a look at how the bid process has unfolded.
In an editorial today, Springfield's State Journal Register, Illinois' oldest newspaper, perhaps best summed up the current sentiments of many who have been watching this private manager process play out. That editorial said in part: "The fact that Northstar is owned by the lottery's largest contractors -- Gtech, which makes lottery machines, Scientific Games, which prints instant tickets; and ad agency Energy BBDO/Chicago -- made us nervous. It still does, and we suspect we are not alone."