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Ohio senator wants review of possible ‘contract steering’ for lucrative iLottery deal

Lottery tickets on display in a gas station convenience store in Columbus.
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Lottery tickets on display in a gas station convenience store in Columbus.

An Ohio Democratic lawmaker is asking for more information into the events that led to the state’s lottery commission selecting a vendor to be the recipient of what would be a large contract to run Ohio’s new iLottery games.

The regulations for Ohio’s new internet-based lottery games, iLottery, are proposed as a bill — SB269 — that now sits in the Ohio House.

The Ohio Lottery Commission has selected NeoPollard as the vendor of iLottery, with a nearly $20 million contract that has yet to be approved by the Ohio Controlling Board.

But Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) has raised concerns over that selection and the money that could be steered toward NeoPollard rather than brick-and-mortar lottery sellers.

Fedor wrote a letter to Ohio Lottery Director Pat McDonald. In the letter, Fedor suggested that McDonald helped in the selection of NeoPollard for a “monopoly related to mobile lottery content.”

Fedor pointed out an email McDonald sent to Rob Frost, a NeoPollard lobbyist and former Cuyahoga County Republican Party chair. McDonald had forwarded Frost an email sent to Ohio Lottery Commission staff with details of the Request for Information that would be sent to qualified iLottery vendors.

“If it looks like contract steering, smells like contract steering – the public has the right to have some answers to the question when we have documents like this,” Fedor said in an interview.

Danielle Frizzi-Bapp, spokesperson for the Ohio Lottery Commission, said “The senator’s claims are completely inaccurate and seem to be motivated by outside influences. Director McDonald did not participate in the evaluation of the RFP for iLottery, and the email referenced was not from the evaluation process.”

Frizzi-Bapp addressed other notions made in Fedor’s letter, such as concerns she raised over casinos and electronic bingo. Frizzi-Bapp noted that the Ohio Lottery Commission does not have jurisdiction over those entities and any assertion otherwise is “just not factually accurate.”

Fedor said NeoPollard is set to gain a large profit from its deal with Ohio’s iLottery. She said more money going to NeoPollard means less money to public education dollars and to brick-and-mortar locations that sell lotto tickets.

Frizzi-Bapp said the brick-and-mortar stores are the “backbone of lottery” and they would not launch a program that would harm those businesses.

Contact Andy at achow@statehousenews.org.
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