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Lottery Commission expresses concern with new law directing proceeds

Members of the N.C. Education Lottery Commission this week voiced concerns about recent legislative changes to the ways lottery proceeds are spent, the Insider's Pat Gannon reports.

While commissioners acknowledged at their quarterly meeting Tuesday that decisions about where the money goes are the General Assembly's to make, they questioned the changes, including the elimination of the original "50-40-10" formula for distribution of lottery dollars.

GOP lawmaker wants to block lottery sales to those on public assistance

State lawmakers are discussing draft legislation that would prohibit lottery retailers from knowingly selling tickets to customers who receive public assistance, such as food stamps, or are in bankruptcy, Pat Gannon at the Insider reports. "We're giving them welfare to help them live, and yet by selling them a ticket, we're taking away their money that is there to provide them the barest of necessities," said Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake. He acknowledged it would be difficult for lottery clerks to know whether players get government help. But he suggested that in obvious cases, such as when customers pay for groceries with food stamps, they shouldn't be allowed to buy lottery tickets at the same time.

Lottery wins marks for responsible gambling

An international association of state-authorized lotteries has given North Carolina’s gaming operation a plus mark for its efforts to encourage responsible playing.

The World Lottery Association, which represents 140 lotteries in 90 countries, bumped the N.C. Education Lottery from the lowest level to the next highest. Moving from Level One to Level Two requires submitting a self-assessment to an independent panel of experts in corporate responsibility.

North Carolina becomes only the fourth lottery in the U.S. to reach Level Two; two have reached Level Three and only one has gotten as high as the second level. Many lotteries in this country don’t participate in the system, according to the N.C. lottery office.

North Carolina’s lottery, which began in 2006, advanced because of several programs:

The lottery chips in $1 million every year to fund a hotline and a treatment program for people with gambling problems.

Each lottery ticket carries the admonition: “Play responsibly” and the toll-free hotline number (877-718-5543).

Lottery staffers emphasize to retailers that tickets cannot be sold to minors. The N.C. operation is also part of a national campaign to discourage adults from buying lottery tickets for youngsters as Christmas presents.

The estimated odds of winning are printed on each lottery ticket, and are available at nc-educationlottery.org. (Odds depend on the game and on how many numbers players correctly guess. A really big money game like Powerball has odds ranging from one in 62 for a $3 prize to one in nearly 200 million for a  jackpot worth many millions of dollars.)

North Carolina's lottery was created to help fund education. Thirty percent of revenue goes for that purpose. Fifty-eight percent goes for prizes, and the rest is paid in commissions to retailers, advertising and other expenses.

N.C. Education Lottery ticket sales up

Thanks to the addition of new games and more retail locations, the N.C. Education Lottery saw a 2.8 percent sales increase during the last fiscal year. Sales have increased each year since the lottery began five years ago.

Despite a steep decline in sales over the first five months of the year, March and the months following hit new sales records. Best sales week, best sales month and best sales quarter all fell during the past several months.

Ticket sales for the 2011 fiscal year, ending June 30, generated $446.9 million for state education programs and local governments.

“This success, during a tough economic year, can be tied directly to our determination to do the best we can for the cause we serve, education in North Carolina," Alice Garland, executive director of the Educated Lottery said in a statement.

The lottery is good to Richard Morgan family

Former House Speaker Richard Morgan was an ardent an opponent of North Carolina getting a lottery – or at least was until a few days ago, when his wife Cindy won $10,000 on a scratch off game.

“I didn't vote for it,” said Morgan, a Moore County Republican. “I did everything I could to stop it. It didn't pass while I was in office.”

That was before his wife played a new game in which the ultimate winner takes home $200,000 for life.  She called her husband to say she had won $10,000, which was one of the lesser prizes

“I said, 'get out of here,'” said Morgan.

Asked if his wife's luck had changed his view of the lottery, Morgan quipped:  “I always thought it a good deal.''

 

The end of Dix and sweepstakes games

Game over: State lawmakers promise that a law taking effect Wednesday will once and for all shut down the Internet sweepstakes parlors that have sprouted across North Carolina in recent years. But some video gaming parlors say they plan to keep operating, with owners altering the games to comply with the law. (N&O)

Clash of titans: WakeMed claims that its rival, the UNC Health Care System, is using its status as a taxpayer-supported institution to create "predatory" competition and disrupt the Triangle's medical market. (N&O)

Dix's final days: On Friday the last patient will likely be admitted to Dorothea Dix Hospital, marking the impending end of 154 years of continuous operation at the state's oldest mental facility. (N&O)

Hayes aid sentenced: A staffer for former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes was sentenced to two years' probation Monday on a charge of extorting money from constituents who had turned to her for help. (N&O)

Clinton in Greensboro: Former President Bill Clinton is visiting Greensboro tonight for a lecture hosted by Guilford College. (AP)

New lottery games: North Carolina lottery officials are launching three new scratch-off games Tuesday. They include a $5 ticket for a "High Roller" game, a $2 ticket to play "$50,000 Jackpot" and a $1 ticket for "Lucky 7s." The "High Roller" game is designed to look like a Craps table and brings prizes of up to $100,000. (AP)
 

Bartlett's friends got jobs at elections board

THE BOSS: At least four hometown friends of state Elections Director Gary Bartlett have been hired at the agency he runs. One of those friends, who was in charge of preventing workplace discrimination, was eventually fired after scores of women in the office complained of inappropriate comments. (N&O)

THE EX BOSS: State lottery director Tom Shaheen is leaving his job. (N&O)

LAW WOULD HURT WINERIES: North Carolina's winemakers and merchants will have to change the way they do business for out-of-state customers if federal legislation becomes law. (N&O)

Fired trooper back on the state payroll

A former state trooper fired last year for having a drunken sexual encounter with another trooper's wife is now an investigator for the North Carolina lottery.

Sgt. Timothy J. White was dismissed from the N.C. Highway Patrol on June 2, 2009, for personal conduct unbecoming of an officer after the encounter, which occurred in the back seat of a car while the woman's husband was in the front seat.

White then continued to contact the other trooper's wife, despite being told by his superiors to stay away from her, according to documents on file at the state Office of Administrative Hearings.

White contested his firing, which has now been reclassified by the state as a resignation following the settlement of his appeal. White was hired Nov. 30 to a new job as a security investigator for the lottery, where he is paid $46,000 a year.

The incident that led to White's dismissal from the Highway Patrol occurred after a Dec. 17, 2008 party at a bar in Mocksville, southwest of Winston-Salem. A patrol veteran who had been promoted to the rank of sergeant earlier that month, White said he consumed about nine beers at the party. He then had a sexual encounter with the wife of Master Trooper Eric B. Perdue, according to the state report.

Perdue was White's subordinate and is listed as a witness to the incident. A third trooper was driving them home.

In an interview last year, White disputed the state's account that he engaged in a sex act, saying that he only remembers kissing the woman and that she was pressing against him in the back of the car. He said Perdue's wife made advances toward him. But, he added, nothing he did was worthy of his being fired.

"She was very impaired that night," White said. "So was her husband. So was I."

As an employee of the state lottery, White is one of six investigators who look into complaints, typically focusing on retailers accused of unfairly operating the game.

Biden will visit state today for fundraiser

BIG FREAKIN' VISIT: Vice President Joe Biden will be in the state briefly this afternoon for a Democratic fundraiser. (AP)

TAKING A LOOK: North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, responding to news reports about an NCAA investigation of the football team at UNC-Chapel Hill, launched an investigation Wednesday into possible improprieties by sports agents in the state. (N&O)

BIG BILL: Days before a Democratic selection panel checks out Charlotte as a site for their party's 2012 national convention, local organizers said "pursuit costs" could top $125,000. (Charlotte Observer)

OUR PHONE, THEIR TEXTS: A Wake County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that personal text messages sent by a state Highway Patrol employee from her personal phone to her immediate supervisor on his state-issued BlackBerry are not public records. (N&O)

PAYMENT PLAN: In a record setting year for ticket sales, the lottery collected more than $1 million from debtors who won lottery prizes. (N&O)

Lottery has record-selling year

The state lottery sold the most lottery tickets since it launched in 2006 during the last fiscal year.

The lottery sold $1.4 billion worth of tickets in the fiscal year that ended June 30. That's a 9.9 percent increase from the previous year, according to unofficial figures provided by the state lottery.

The boost in sales was due in part to the launch of the Mega Millions game, which doubled the number of drawings for big multi-state huge jackpot games per week. The lottery also broke the 6,000 mark on its number of retailers.

At the start of the fiscal year, lottery tickets were available at 6,267 outlets. Retailer turnover is pretty high and the lottery's staff has focused on recruitment and retention.

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