Court: New Jersey can sign lottery marketing contract

A person buys a lottery ticket at the Lucky 7 Deli in Lawrence Township, N.J., Friday, March 30, 2012. Lottery ticket lines across the U.S. swelled Friday as players drawn by a record $640 million Mega Millions jackpot took a chance at becoming an overnight millionaire. The jackpot odds were at 1 in 176 million. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

June 12, 2013 9:07:51 AM PDT
A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that the state can move ahead with its plan to turn over sales and marketing of the New Jersey Lottery to a private vendor, but the panel still plans more hearings on the matter.

Gov. Chris Christie wants to hand the functions to Northstar New Jersey, a joint venture that was the only bidder for the 15-year contract. The deal would give the state government $120 million upfront.

The Communications Workers of America union, which represents lottery workers, sued to block the deal, saying it should not be allowed to go ahead in part because there was just one bidder.

A two-judge panel issued an order Tuesday saying it will not grant a stay to prevent the state from signing the contract. The panel found that there would be no irreparable harm for allowing the deal to proceed.

But the court is still planning full consideration of the issues, though further hearings have not yet been scheduled.

Getting the money soon is a priority for the Christie administration, which is seeking to use the funds to help balance the state budget that runs through June 30.

The CWA has something to lose if the contract takes effect. State officials have said it would mean eliminating about 60 jobs in the lottery, but have also said that it would try to find other positions for the displaced workers.

The issue has become a partisan lightning rod, with six Democratic members of Congress asking Attorney General Eric Holder to review the deal.

State Sen. Barbara Buono, who is challenging Christie in this year's gubernatorial election, also objects.