Illinois Lottery Commissioner Michael Jones (photo right) has been taking a number of field trips lately, heading to nearby states, including Indiana, to speak out…against the Illinois Lottery.
This might seem strange. After all, following its privatization, the Illinois Lottery has greatly improved its take. In fiscal year 2012, the Lottery made $100 million more than it did in 2011, before privatization took effect. Regardless of how you might feel philosophically about gambling – or for that matter, about the state taking money from its own citizens – Illinois is in such dire financial straits that you’d think Springfield would be elated at the thought of receiving that kind of easy money, and eager to share its success with every neighbor who would listen.
Nevertheless, Jones took it upon himself to insert his unsolicited opinion on how to run a lotto contract award process when our neighbors in Indiana considered plans to emulate Illinois’ success. Jones trashed Illinois' selection process for the lotto contract to the Indiana government and the Indiana press, in what appears to be a clear attempt to prevent Indiana from courting the same group of lottery sub-contractors.
Jones’ intervention was extremely unorthodox, even unprecedented. A prominent state lottery director, who has presided over lottery reforms in several states over the course of her 27 year career, told Illinois Review that such overt contact with other state lottery directors was almost unheard of. In fact, the director confirmed she would never interfere in another state's process unless specifically requested.
"If another state were to call me and say, 'I want your advice, what would you suggest we do in this situation,' that would be normal. States regularly call and say, 'Hey, we're putting out an RFP, can you give us advice on what worked for your state," she noted. "It would be unorthodox to insert yourself into another state's process unless you were requested to do so. In fact, I would speak to my lottery director even before answering a call from another state." The lottery director also noted that the conversations between state governments on this issue are generally confidential, and contacting the press is well outside the boundaries of professionalism here.
Of course, the Hoosier State appears to have ignored Jones completely and instead has replicated the Illinois model almost exactly, down to the contract selection process. And Gov. Mitch Daniels seems positively thrilled with the outcome:
In awarding the contract, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said, “this may be the easiest and most obvious decision the state has had to make. “Our lottery revenues lag far behind most states,” he said. “With this contract, the only question is how much more money Indiana will receive than under the current system.”
So what’s Jones’ beef? It may have something to do with his losing the lottery privatization contract war. Before this, his second, tenure as Illinois Lottery superintendent, Jones formed a company called ‘Your Lottery LLC’ to pursue the Illinois lottery contract for himself. He was listed by the Huffington Post as one of the top contenders for the contract. When he was interviewed, Jones spoke glowingly of the benefits a private company could bring to the state lottery, which severely lagged behind other states. When Jones withdrew from consideration and lost the contract, he changed his tune. Sources tell Illinois Review that Jones may have tried to contact other bidders, allegedly promising to "help" them get the state contract in exchange for a large chunk of their proceeds. When all of the bidders turned Jones down, Jones decided the process, which wasn't allowing him to get paid according to Illinois "rules of order," he soured on the privatization contract process and began his campaign.
That's right: when Jones allegedly learned that the process was fair, and might result in an above-board use of taxpayer funds, it appears he turned against it. We’ll be revealing more of our special investigation into Illinois’ Lottery Superintendent so stay tuned to Illinois Review.