The Foetid Stench of North Carolina’s Lottery

The title of my post will be no surprise to those of you have read any of my many comments on OrangePolitics about the NC lottery.

The lottery was birthed by trickery, as the N&O prophesized:

If state Senate Democrats use parliamentary tricks to sneak a lottery into law, they’ll disgrace the chamber they control.

Well, wouldn’t you know it. Proponents of a state lottery, led by Governor Easley, seemed to have lost their fight in the General Assembly to put North Carolina in the gambling business this year. But with the state Senate called back to town for a session today, there’s speculation afoot that a couple of Republican lottery opponents — and possibly a Democrat as well — may be absent. That would tip the odds toward those who favor the lottery, since 21 Republicans and five Democrats have made up a 26-24 majority in opposition. In the event of a 24-24 split, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue says she’d vote for the lottery.

Senate President Pro Tem (read that: Boss) Marc Basnight of Manteo, who’d previously conceded defeat, said over the weekend that the issue might well come to a vote today if the numbers looked good. Basnight is a fellow who both respects the traditions of the Senate and isn’t all that crazy about the governor, so this is a strange twist. It’s a lot of trouble, after all, to maneuver things this way on behalf of the governor’s issue, so it’s curious that Basnight might suddenly decide to carry Easley’s water and bend obediently into the Blount Street Bow.

The lottery lost fair and square, or would have if Senate leaders had put it to a vote. Now proponents are flirting with sitting down at the table again and playing with what amounts to a deck that’s stacked because of senators who have to be, or perhaps have been persuaded to be, absent. That would be a disgrace to them and to the democratic process itself.

The squabbles over the money have already started.

Under a plan that’s drawing fire from North Carolina’s most powerful politicians, the manager of the state’s largest county wants to use lottery proceeds to pay for a tax cut.

The proposal by Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones would use $9 million in lottery money to pay toward the county’s school construction debt. That would free up money for a 1.2 percent tax cut, Jones acknowledged. Any lottery over $9 million would be spent for school construction.

“I think it’s a good decision for us locally,” Jones said.

The measure is legal under the lottery legislation approved by state lawmakers last year, but it clearly violates its intent.

And now, as expected, the slime the lottery rose from has been clearly revealed by today’s indictments:

A federal grand jury indicted former state lottery commissioner Kevin L. Geddings today on five counts of mail fraud and four counts of wire fraud, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The indictment says that from February 2001 to September 2005, Geddings received $228,796.18 from Scientific Games International, a lottery company that sought the contracts to operate North Carolina’s new lottery.

The indictment says Geddings failed to disclose his financial ties to Scientific Games when he was appointed in September 2005 to the state commission that would select the companies to operate the lottery in North Carolina.

“The indictment also alleges that Geddings intentionally concealed his relationship with Scientific Games because he knew it would disqualify him from service as a lottery commissioner,” the release said.

Of course, an indictment isn’t a conviction.

Speaking of Scientific Games, North Carolina might still have to pay for the pleasure of dealing with them, as reported in April 19th’s Greensboro News and Record.

North Carolina’s lottery may be forced to do business with Scientific Games, a company that was part of a lobbying debacle last year and fueled investigations into House Speaker Jim Black’s office.

The state would have to pay Scientific Games $240,000 for the first $12 million in Power Play sales, and 1 percent of Power Play sales after that.

North Carolinians, do you feel like winners yet?


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