Lobbyist’s questioning of Florida Lottery contracts sparks more questions — about the lobbyist

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A Florida lobbyist’s effort to raise concerns about a multimillion- dollar contract with the Florida Lottery is sparking more questions — not about the contract, but about the role the lobbyist may have played in the original bid process.

Last week, capitol reporter Gary Fineout explained that a contract with the Florida Lottery that is at least worth $300 million over the next 10 years is now in dispute.

This contract includes the machines used to issue tickets for games such as Powerball and Mega Millions as well as the instant ticket vending machines, detailed Fineout.

Vying for this contract are three power-players in the gaming technology industry: the incumbent, GTECH, as well as Premier Lotteries Florida and Scientific Games International.

The state’s 10-year contract with GTECH to operate the machines that sell Powerball and other similar games was scheduled to expire in September. But the agency signed an emergency extension last month to keep it intact until March 2017 or until a new company is selected.

Obviously, Premier and Scientific would like to win away from GTECH this lucrative contract, although it’s not at all clear what’s broke at the Florida Lottery that needs fixing.

What is clear is that one of Scientific’s lobbyists, Dan Russell, is playing a key role in this process — and that’s raising questions among those who follow this kind of insider-only procurement power play.

Russell, the former general counsel of the Florida Lottery and now a special counsel with the Jones Walker law firm, was identified in the same blog post by Fineout as one of three lobbyists who raised concerns with the Governor’s Office about a second nine-figure bid before the Lottery.

As previously stated, Russell represents Bally Technologies and/or Bally Gaming, which is now owned by Scientific Games.

According to one dialed-in source familiar with the Florida Lottery’s procurement process, it’s very likely that Russell saw each proposal from the three vendors.

By law, Russell should be prohibited from working with Scientific Games, especially on this existing contract, because he was involved in the process of reviewing each proposal prior to and during the reissuing of bids for that contract.

And if Russell played a role — any role — in the resetting of this bid process, that would be especially troubling.

Just as Fineout has, FloridaPolitics.com has submitted a request for an extensive list of public records in an attempt to determine Russell’s revolving-door role in this process.

Material with The Associated Press was used in this post.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.