A Tallahassee judge has invalidated the Florida Lottery’s $700 million contract for new equipment, essentially agreeing with House Speaker Richard Corcoran that the agency went on an illegal spending spree when it inked the deal last year.
Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers issued her 15-page order late Tuesday afternoon. She presided over a nonjury trial in the case Monday.
The multiple-year contract involved new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. The Lottery is booming — it sold more than $6.2 billion in tickets last year, records show.
“The Florida Lottery continues to make record contributions to our public schools and today’s ruling jeopardizes billions of dollars for Florida students,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. “I strongly disagree with today’s decision and we will appeal.”
Corcoran, in a statement joined by House Rules Committee Chairman Jose Oliva and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chris Sprowls, called the decision “a victory for the taxpayer and the rule of law.”
“It reinforces the idea that respecting the separation of powers is not an arcane idea or an out-of-date philosophy,” they said. “In truth it is one of the bedrock principles of our republican government and is essential to protecting the liberties and livelihoods of Floridians.
“No branch of government is above the law and the people’s House will use every power within our means – from the committee room to the courtroom – to ensure those liberties and livelihoods are protected.”
Gievers agreed with House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum, who had said the deal broke state law by going “beyond (the Lottery’s) existing budget limitations.”
Because Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie “lacked the legal authority to enter into the IGT (International Game Technology) contract, (it) must, therefore, be found to be void and unenforceable,” Gievers wrote.
She faulted the agency for, among other things, not first seeking the Legislature’s permission to enter into a deal that committed the state to as much as two decades’ worth of funding.
A message seeking comment was left for a spokeswoman for Las Vegas-based IGT. Corcoran’s spokesman said a response was coming later Tuesday evening.
The new deal provides much more than equipment, with provisions for in-store signage, self-service ticket checkers and upgraded security in the communications network.