TRENTON – Senator Barbara Buono today vowed to continue exploring the viability of privatizing the State Lottery because of its long-range potential to provide “hundreds of millions of dollars” in revenues to New Jersey taxpayers.
“I think the Legislature has a moral obligation to pursue revenue sources that are judged to be viable means to ease our financial burdens,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex, and Chair of the Senate Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.
State Treasurer Bradley Abelow told the panel today that the State’s financial advisor found theLottery to be “extremely viable” for asset monetization. But he stressed that evaluations are ongoing and no decisions could yet be made.
“I am grateful for the Treasurer’s report, but at the same time, the Legislature can move forward with its own assessments, particularly in areas that are outside the realm of the Executive Branch,” Senator Buono said.
Specifically, Senator Buono said she would encourage her colleagues in the Legislature to explore possible wording of any state constitutional amendment deemed necessary to change gaming statutes. The non-partisan Office of Legislative Services issued a legal opinion requested by Senator Buono which held that voter approval would be needed to allow a private company to take over aspects of the State Lottery, which according to Treasurer Abelow last year produced $844 million for the State’s general fund.
“It appears beyond question that a voter-approved Constitutional amendment will be needed,” said Senator Buono. “But the hearings and public scrutiny of such a process would come through the Legislature.”
Ballot questions such as a proposed constitutional amendment are prepared solely by the Legislature.
“There is no consensus at this time in the Legislature whether it is prudent to advance a constitutional amendment for the consideration of our voters, but I believe a public conversation on all aspects of the issue will be very beneficial to taxpayers,” Senator Buono said.