Michael Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports today more intrigue related to the Arkansas Lottery. Another case of ill appearances in state operation of a gambling enterprise.
* The lottery is struggling with declining revenue.
* Republican Sen. Jimmy Hickey of Texarkana has been a critic of the existing lottery operation and led the fight to prevent it from expanding into keno-style games.
* Hickey has proposed to the Legislative Council a $149,500 (plus expenses) no-bid consulting contract for Camelot Global Services — a Philadelphia outfit represented by Republican lobbyists Bill Vickery and Mitchell Lowe — to review the lottery.
* It turns out Hickey proposed this contract with Camelot a couple of weeks after the Lottery Commission had refused to extend an Aug 18 deadline so that Camelot could bid on a performance audit the Lottery Commission is commissioning. Two firms bid — $30,000 and $170,000 — for that work.
* Hickey swears he knew nothing about Camelot’s earlier failure to get an extension to bid when he proposed the legislative deal with Camelot.
* Camelot operates the United Kingdom lottery.
* A $149,500 consulting contract is chump change, particularly after you pay the lobbyists who landed the deal.
* A contract to run a state lottery could be worth some real money.
* In some sectors, a reviewer hand-picked by a foe of an agency being reviewed might be seen as loaded dice. But this is the Arkansas legislature. No need to suspect anything but the purest of motives.