by Max Brantley
Catching up this morning on a sketchy Internet connection, I read Lindsey Millar's update on Ernie Passailaigue's legacy as director of the Arkansas Lottery.
A catchy moniker is needed, something akin to, say, the South Carolina Swindle. The Ernie P. era, we now know, won't be distinguished only by the $800,000 in pay and lavish leave bestowed on the Palmetto State Posse who got our lottery off the ground. The biggest rip was the sweetheart deal Ernie P. set up with major lottery vendor Scientific Games.
Internal auditing has revealed that the deal — including a crucial amendment approved by nobody but Ernie P. — has cost Arkansas roughly SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS. Scientific Games wants to pay a $2 million rebate for the state to forget the whole thing and continue its sweetheart contract terms.
Let me point out what $7 million means to real people, as opposed to lottery executives and lobbyists:
* SCHOLARSHIPS: $2 million worth*. FOUR HUNDRED scholarships at $5,000 per year, the first-year rate, more at the current level.
* GAMBLING WINNINGS: $5 million worth. That's a $10 payoff on FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND TICKETS.
Making the state whole would be a messy business. Ending the sweetheart deal also would be legally contentious. It also — and this is key — could expose lax oversight by the legislature and commission. You can understand a desire to sweep all this under the rug and move along. Let's not. Where's the outrage from all those running for office this year on good government platforms?
*An earlier version of this post confused the scholarship and gambling winnings numbers.