While masses of people are flocking to liquor stores to play today's record setting Mega Millions lottery, those behind the games benefit from much shorter odds in the political game, using influence to ensure big payoffs.
Take Gtech, a gaming technology giant based in Providence, R.I., that has contracts with 16 of the states that participate in Mega Millions to provide lottery terminals and other services. The company, its PAC, employees and their family members have given $4.1 million in campaign contributions to state and federal-level candidates and party committees dating back to 1991. It's spent $3.4 million lobbying the federal government since 1997, according to the Sunlight Foundation's Influence Explorer.
Gtech has also been a revolving door destination for state lottery officials. In 1999, in a lengthy profile of the company, the Washington Monthly reported,
Three directors of the New York state lottery have gone to work for the company as lobbyists or consultants, as have numerous directors from other states. After a conflict over Massachusetts' lottery, director James Hosker, a close friend of Gtech's, took the job managing Kentucky's lottery and secured a sweet deal for the company in that state. Where did Hosker move next? A lucrative job on the Gtech payroll.
In a 2007 article, the Journal News in Lower Hudson Valley, N.Y., detailed numerous other incidents in Gtech's past, including:
- Hiring the former patronage chief for then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo as a $20,000-a-month consultant. Tonio Burgos held the job for about three months until the deal leaked out. - Awarding a former gubernatorial aide in Missouri a 10-year, $80,000-a-year consulting contract after GTECH won that state's business. - Hiring lobbyists in Texas who included two former aides to then-Gov. George W. Bush, as well as former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes. In 1996, public pressure led to Barnes' contract being bought out for $23 million.
An Italian firm, Lottomatica S.p.A., acquired Gtech in August 2006. According to its most recent annual report, Gtech had $1.3 billion in revenues, was active in 51 countries, and provided its services to 26 of the 41 online lottery authorities in the United States.
Lottery suppliers like Gtech aren't the gambling interests making sure bets on politics: casinos and other gaming companies have contributed more than $557 million to federal and state candidates and political committees since 1989, according to data in Influence Explorer.