Rhode Island Dem Gov's no-bid lottery deal looks... pretty bad

Given everything else going on in the country right now, this may look like something of a “local news story” but I think it’s worth a look. The Governor of Rhode Island since 2015 has been Gina Raimondo (D) and she’s making some news this month over a rather dubious-looking deal. The state currently has a deal with IGT Global Solutions Corporation to run its lottery and electronic gaming interests. That contract is up for renewal, so that’s one bit of housekeeping that the Governor will have to see to. Nothing too unusual so far, right?

But as Michael Graham reports at Inside Sources, there’s a lot more to this deal than meets the eye. And it doesn’t look very good for Rhode Island’s taxpayers at first glance.

To outsiders, the story sounds like an episode of the TV show “Scandal:” A governor with close ties to a lottery company secretly negotiates a no-bid, twenty-year, $1 billion contract, while the company’s former chairman works as her top fundraiser.

But in Rhode Island, the home of legendary political operator Buddy Cianci, some consider it business as usual.

The governor is Gina Raimondo (D-R.I.), the new head of the Democratic Governor’s Association. The corporate exec is Donald Sweitzer, who until recently was chairman of IGT Global Solutions Corporation, the company that currently has Rhode Island’s lottery and electronic gaming contract.

As Graham points out, Raimondo isn’t just any garden variety Democrat. She’s currently the head of the Democratic Governor’s Association and is rumored to have more national aspirations.

The second player in this tale is Donald Sweitzer. He’s a lobbyist for IGT and is so close to the Governor that he negotiates political deals for her with legislatures. Probably not by coincidence, Sweitzer used to be the Chairman of IGT.

And now, the Governor is cooking up a deal where IGT will get their contract renewed in a no-bid arrangement lasting twenty years and worth roughly a billion dollars. There are plenty of other players in the lottery and electronic gaming field who would be very interested in landing that contract. Graham spoke to some industry sources who described such a lengthy, expensive contract as “highly unusual” to say the least. And IGT has reportedly been “under-performing” in Rhode Island as compared to their competitors handling similar contracts for other states.

If IGT isn’t delivering measurable results near the top of the class for reasonable prices, why should the taxpayers of Rhode Island sign on for a twenty-year stretch without at least letting some of the competition put in bids? That sounds like unwise management of the public purse. Shouldn’t the legislature be looking into this before the deal is inked?