by Max Brantley
State Rep. John Walker of Little Rock, who is also a lawyer, filed a lawsuit today in Pulaski Circuit Court alleging that tampering with lottery scratchoff tickets created a situation in which an unknown number of gamblers could have been sold $20 scratch-off tickets without a chance of winning.
Walker's suit alleges that Arkansas Lottery Commission officials were informed of the tampering scheme, but tried to hush the plaintiff up by giving him some lottery merchandise and even free lottery tickets.
Here's the lawsuit. It names the Lottery Commission, the lottery director and security chief and Scientific Games, a vendor for the tickets.
In it, Rick Tomboli of Little Rock, the plaintiff, said he bought two $20 Arkansas Millionaires scratchoff ticket at a local outlet. They were losers. He noticed they had a tiny pinprick over a section on the ticket that said "Bonus $50." He went back to the store and found all the other tickets in the game had small pinpricks in the same place. As I understand, the pinprick revealed the color of a message below, enough to determine if a ticket was a winner or not. The lawsuit alleges that the store, unidentified, removed winners from those for sale and sold only losers.
Tomboli said he complained to the lottery, which brought a visit from Lance Huey, the lottery's security director. He says Huey told him the tickets were printed improperly and would be pulled. He offered Tomboi an assort of lottery tote bags, shirts, hats and sunglasses as compensation for his trouble. But Tomboli returned to the store and found tickets with pinpricks were still being sold. According to the lawsuit, Huey "frantically" called back the next day. He allgedly told him the lottery didn't want to reprint that run of tickets and lose the sales. According to the lawsuit, "Huey admonished the plaintiff not to tell anyone and conveyed to him that someone from the retailer would contact him to maybe find a way to compensate him." Walker told me that a representative of the store, who indicated he was acting with lottery blessings, offered Tomboli a roll of free lottery tickets.
Walker has filed his suit as a class action on behalf of all those who may have bought tickets. It says the defendants violated their fiduciary duty to operate the lottery with integrity.
So far, I've been unable to reach Lottery Director Bishop Woosley and Public Affairs Director Julie Baldridge for comment. Walker said his team had gotten in touch with Lottery Commissioner Bruce Engstrom, who's been raising questions about lottery operations. He said Engstrom immediately took his complaint to lottery officials. Engstrom confirmed that he'd spoken with Tomboli and former lottery counsel Bridgette Frazier yesterday morning at Walker's request and, as soon as he heard of the allegations of fraud, notified Woosley. He referred further questions to him. But he said he'd learned enough to know that there were indications of problems and that lottery officials were looking into them.
UPDATE: The lottery has little to say. Statement on jump, but it confirms the matter is under investigation by Little Rock police and it reports that three employees at the store in question have been fired. But it is dead silent on allegation that the plaintiff was encouraged, including by gifts, to remain silent.
This could be a big deal. If one store figured out this flaw in one game's tickets, did others? Is this the only game subject to such tampering? Why would a lottery security official instruct a citizen of Arkansas who believed he was wronged by operation of the lottery to not disclose publicly what would occurred? Why wouldn't the tickets immediately be pulled? Is this part of the enhanced services lottery vendor Scientific Games is providing for the sweetheart contract the Lottery Commission recently approved after the fact? Does it not seem that the Lottery Commission bends over backwards to cover up mistakes, misdeeds and bad judgment? Do lottery officials not understand that people are far more forgiving of honest mistakes than they are of coverups ? Do lottery officials not understand that mistakes damage credibility less than intentional acts of deception?
Sadly, the evolving story of the Arkansas Lottery is running to form. A game for suckers.
The Arkansas Lottery Commission doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The matter alleged was investigated by Lottery Security on Tuesday. Soon afterward, management at the retail location informed us that three individuals had lost their jobs. The Lottery placed the issue in the hands of the Little Rock Police Department Financial Crimes unit.
It will be readily apparent to a player if anyone has attempted to determine the value without fully scratching a ticket. In fact, the tampering was reported by a player.
Tampering with or altering a lottery ticket is a felony in Arkansas, and we take each instance of lottery crime very seriously. All steps will continue to be taken to ensure and protect the integrity of all ALC games.