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Illinois lottery director leaving for more money in Connecticut ahead of election

Illinois Watchdog.Org

Tuesday, July 10, 2018  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop

Lottery (61) McSweeney, David--State House, 52 , Zalewski, Michael--State House, 23
The top state official at the Illinois Lottery is leaving to take a higher paying job running Connecticut's lottery.

One Illinois state Representative said it’s good news Illinois is set to get a new lottery director. The open position comes amid changes at the lottery and months before what is predicted to be one of the most expensive gubernatorial races in the nation.

The Illinois lottery is under new private manager Camelot after ending a rocky relationship with Northstar earlier this year. Northstar was the first private manager for Illinois’ lottery after lawmakers required the program be privatized in 2019. Northstar was ultimately fired by Gov. Bruce Rauner after he took office in 2015 because it did not generate revenue to match targeted goals, but was still running things until recently.

Last week Illinois Lottery officials confirmed Lottery Director Gregory Smith is set to leave his job later this month. The Hartford Courant reported Smith will be Connecticut's lottery director beginning later this month making $200,000 a year. That's $68,000 more than the $142,000 salary he made in his appointed position in Illinois. 

Illinois Lottery officials said Smith does pay into the State Employee Retirement System and group insurance, but does not accrue vacation or sick time. 

Illinois State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said it’s good news Smith is leaving.

“(Smith) designed a process that did not have a competitive bid component,” McSweeney said. “Ultimately we ended up with one bid. They should have adjusted the bid to make sure that we had competition.”

McSweeney said Camelot being the only bidder was a bad deal for taxpayers.

“Not having competition is always bad for taxpayers,” McSweeney said.

Over McSweeney’s objections, Camelot got the 10-year contract that will have yearly internal audits and the subsidiary of a British gaming company will be expected to comply with public records demands.

If Camelot doesn’t perform, Smith said last year there are “a number of termination provisions that exist in the agreement.”

While being critical of the deal the new private manager Camelot got as the only bidder, McSweeney said it’s still too early to tell how they’re doing. He hopes the outcome is better than previous manager Northstar which missed revenue projections.

State Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, agreed and said with the hundreds of millions of dollars it brings in every year, it’s important to have regular oversight of the lottery.

“When you’re talking about this much activity and this kind of network I don’t know that these problems are avoidable but … we’re going to continue to be scrupulous on what the activity is and making sure that it’s done right,” Zalewski said. “We always have the ability to revisit this at the lottery as we go forward.”

Lottery money is used for capital projects and the state’s general fund. Since 1985, the Illinois Lottery said it has contributed $19 billion to education and raised funds for infrastructure, veterans services and more.

The Lottery transferred $723.2 million to the Common School Fund, Capital Projects Fund and specialty ticket causes in fiscal 2017. It is estimated to transfer $731.7 million to those funds in fiscal 2018, said Jason Schaumburg, a spokesman for the Illinois Lottery.