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Published: Saturday, 2/2/2008

2 seeking state gambling deals gave thousands to Strickland, Democrats


COLUMBUS - Lobbyists and executives for two firms with a chance to operate the state-run keno gambling machines proposed by Gov. Ted Strickland have donated thousands of campaign dollars to the Democratic governor and his party.

The money came from representatives of GTech Corp., the state's online gaming vendor, and Intralot USA, which has bid against GTech and a third firm for a new state contract for online lottery services that went out in October.

Lottery spokesman Mardele Cohen said the contract did not specifically include keno, which the governor said Thursday could raise $73 million of the $733 million he needs to address a projected budget deficit.

"Could keno fall under this? Yes, it could, because it's a type of online [product]," Ms. Cohen said.

Rhode Island-based GTech, the Greek company Intralot, and Georgia-based Scientific Games Corp. all submitted bids for a Dec. 20 deadline, Ms. Cohen said. The state hopes to award the contract by April.

Ohio lobbyists for Intralot have donated about $30,000 to Mr. Strickland and the state party, while GTech representatives have donated about $28,000, according to state and federal campaign finance documents reviewed by the Associated Press. Scientific Games lobbyist Richard Hillis gave Mr. Strickland's campaign about $2,200.

Most of the contributions from gaming entities to Mr. Strickland were made during his 2006 run for governor.

However, two Ohio lobbyists for Intralot, Philip Craig and Jacob Evans, donated a combined $9,000 to the Democratic governor in August and September of last year. Both men also lobbied for other clients at that time.

Dan McCarthy, president of the Success Group, which lobbies for GTech, and his wife have donated a combined $21,000 to Mr. Strickland since late 2005. Mr. McCarthy also gave an additional $6,000 to the Ohio Democratic Party's federal campaign fund in that time, records show. Mr. McCarthy's firm also lobbies for multiple clients.

In addition, GTech senior vice president Donald Sweitzer gave the Ohio Democratic Party $1,500 last year through its federal fund, and Intralot lobbyist Byron Boothe gave the fund $2,000 in July. Mr. Sweitzer is a former Democratic National Committee political director.

Ms. Cohen said estimates for how much keno could raise for the state were gathered using input from GTech, the trade publication LaFleur's Lottery World, and the National Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

Critics characterize the keno game Mr. Strickland backs as similar to tabletop video lottery terminals that the state outlawed last year.

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