In a world where government revenue is shrinking and demands for services are increasing, state governments continue to look for ways to generate more income. One such method has been state lotteries, which have been around in their present form since the mid-’80s.
In spite of the fact that state lotteries are really a form of regressive taxation, they have become a popular and essential element of the state fiscal budgeting process. In New Jersey, they represent the fourth largest source of revenue. But that source has been decreasing over the past several years.
Exacerbating the problem is the fact that in the Garden State, the administration of the lottery is outsourced to a for-profit consortium, partially owned by foreign interests, that has been a solid donor to GOP political causes, including Chris Christie’s Republican Governor’s Association. And to add insult to injury, the firm that lobbied for this lucrative outsourcing scheme was Wolff & Samson – the same David Samson that’s embroiled in the Bridgegate scandal. Of course, back when this contract was being “competed”, as Seth Hahn – the political director of the CWA – points out, potential bidders knew about the Christie/Samson connection and probably figured it was not worth their effort to vie for this contract. Hahn said that “The M.O. of the Christie Administration is not to put good government first.” The consortium that eventually received the contract was the sole bidder.
Today, the Bloomberg News Service reported that instead of meeting its goal of a 7.4% increase in revenue, the privately-run New Jersey Lottery is facing a shortfall of 9.2%, or $24 million – money that is desperate needed by the state, whether it is for education, aid for the disabled, or one of Christie’s unnecessary senatorial elections.