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CWA files suit over lottery contract with Northstar

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The battle over the state’s plan to privatize some of its lottery functions is headed to court, with the Communications Workers of America announcing today it’s suing to block the move by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.

The union is appealing the contract with Northstar New Jersey Lottery Group — the only group that offered a bid late last year before winning the 15-year assignment in April. Under the contract, which requires an upfront payment of $120 million to the state, the firm will operate the sales and marketing functions of the $2.8 billion enterprise.

The contract has sparked controversy among Democratic lawmakers and the CWA. In a press release announcing the lawsuit, the labor group raised several familiar issues with the deal, including an alleged lack of transparency by the administration, the prospect that it would hurt small businesses and Christie’s veto of a bill last month that would have required Assembly and Senate approval of the contract.

“From the start, Christie stacked the deck against small-business owners and taxpayers,” said Seth Hahn, legislative and political director for CWA New Jersey, in a prepared statement. “He’s failed to answer basic problematic legal questions, and now we’re forced to go to court.”

A message left with Christie’s press office late this morning was not returned.

The CWA today also accused Christie of using the contract payment to plug his election-year budget and entrusting the system to a firm with a shaky record. The Chicago Tribune reported last month that Northstar was on track to fall short of promised revenue goals for the second straight year, this time by about $180 million.

Northstar is a joint venture of GTech Corp., a subsidiary of an Italian lottery operator; Scientific Games International and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System.

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