CWA, retailers’ group fighting potential lottery monetization

TRENTON – The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Asian American Retailers Association will run a campaign to stop what they describe as “a reckless plan” to privatize the New Jersey State Lottery.

The campaign will feature grassroots pressure on elected officials and a new website to organize and inform supporters, biggamblenj.com, they said.

Governor Christie has proposed monetizing, or privatizing, most functions at the State Lottery, in a deal that would include a one-time lump sum payment of $120 million from the contractor to the state.

“Gov. Corzine was soundly criticized for seeking to ‘monetize’ the State Lottery and tolls, and New Jerseyans overwhelmingly opposed the plan. Now Governor Christie is trying to do the same thing by quietly privatizing management and sales of Lottery,” said Hetty Rosenstein, CWA state director.

Bidding contractors are asked to take over Lottery Sales, eliminating the State Lottery agents and oversight, according to the CWA. A 2008 Justice Department memo warns that a pre-payment or not having the Lottery directly run by the state violates federal Law, but the current bid appears to require both, the CWA said in its release.

According to CWA, the contractor would have to pay the state the amount required under the law, and would have to expand lottery sales in order to make a profit and make up for the $120 million buy-in. That expansion would occur in big box stores and online sales.

CWA says that this shift from lottery sales at small business would have a devastating impact on neighborhood stores that rely on lottery sales.

“Thousands of small businesses are struggling now,” said Jasal Amin, a trustee for the Asian American Retailers Association, a trade group which represents hundreds of convenience stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and liquor stores across the state.

“Any proposal that significantly decreases revenue from lottery sales and the secondary sales customers make while buying lottery items is a problem and creates the possibility of layoffs. We need to have a serious discussion, one that involves all stakeholders, before going down this road. That has yet to happen.”

In addition to the website and legislative advocacy, the campaign will feature a petition where residents can oppose the monetization on the grounds that it will lead to fraud and harm small businesses.

CWA also cited the potential for legal action if the DOJ recommendations are not followed. Social media users can also follow the campaign’s progress by following @BigGambleNJ on twitter.

Two years ago, a task force was assembled, headed by former Rep. Dick Zimmer, to recommend state services for privatization. The Lottery was not listed as a recommendation.

Treasury Department spokesman Andy Pratt pointed out that it is not a complete privatization plan, saying that the state will still oversee the operation. He said the marketing functions of the Lottery will be compeitively bid by private vendors.

“The Lottery has flattended out,” he said. “This plan is a way of providing incentives.” He added that companies that win the bids will have to meet various performance goals.

CWA, retailers’ group fighting potential lottery monetization