Hoosier Lottery operations could be privatized, depending on how the bids come in. It's a big step for Indiana, one that must be taken only with extreme caution.
The Indiana State Lottery Commission this month released a request for information, setting two deadlines for interested bidders.
The first deadline, Aug. 1, is for background on the bidding company and all its employees. The Aug. 31 deadline is for the full bids.
Once the bids are in, the commission will evaluate the bids, weighing the information about who would be involved — the integrity question — along with the business plan and the net income proposed. A recommendation is expected by late September.
The lottery is a business, of course, so the income matters. Lottery sales revenue is a voluntary tax. Since its inception in 1989, the agency reports, it has generated more than $4 billion in profits for state government.
But also important are how the bidder plans to market products and that everyone involved have a sterling reputation. Privatization must bring the same level of scrutiny to the lottery as already exists for the state's casinos, dog tracks and related operations.
The same concerns about organized crime, largely based on the early history of Las Vegas, will no doubt surface again in Indiana if the state recommends a bidder to operate the marketing and sales of Hoosier Lottery products.
It's important to make sure the state retains careful control of all aspects of the operation, because gambling offers opportunity for unsavory dealings that could harm Hoosiers.
Structure this contract very carefully to make sure that doesn't happen, and that Indiana's reputation doesn't suffer. This is even more important than squeezing more money out of Hoosiers and visitors for get-rich-quick lottery dreams.