Lotto: Help! It's Me Against Them
Connecticut's Anything But Blue
Here's One Happy Lotto Winner!
You've Got To Be In It To Win It
Dear Readers of The Hour: I need your help.
The state of Connecticut owes me $6, but has reneged on its obligation to pay up.
One state agency says, in effect, we can do anything we want, so bug off! Two other state agencies say, "It's not our problem," and still another says, "Hire a lawyer, or go to small claims court."
The arrogance of these state agencies aside, their claim that the state has satisfied "all administrative and legal requirements" is pure baloney; the options they offer of hiring a lawyer or trudging on down to small claims court are unrealistic.
But there is one solution that is right on the mark: The state could own up to its error and pay up!
What is this all about, you ask? What error? The state owes you $6 for what?
If you recall, the state, in July, stopped paying off $3 to those who had three-out-of-six numbers in the Connecticut Lotto. On Aug. 18 I purchased one of those 10-drawings tickets; no one ever told me that the $3 payoff was discontinued, and my ticket contains two $3 winners -- thus the $6 state debt.
The Ticket Tells All
Have you looked at your ticket lately? On the back of the ticket it states that the overall odds of winning is 39.3 to 1, which can only be true if there are a large number of $3 winners.
I've spoken to a number of people who feel as I do that the state pulled a fast one. I'm not the only one who feels bilked by the state. A press release and message to Lotto computers hardly is adequate notice to millions of Lotto purchasers.
Shocked by the arrogance of the state in selling Lotto tickets that purport to give odds at one level while actually giving odds that are substantially lower, I wrote a letter to the Department of Revenue Services, Division of Special Revenue, and sent copies to Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, Attorney General Clarine Nardi Riddle and Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Mary M. Heslin demanding my money.
I received a prompt reply from Lottery Unit Chief Susan H. White stating that the Lottery Division has the right to modify procedures approved by the Gaming Policy Board and that the board approved the $3 change in June. The unit chief claims the change was "well advertised" in the media and that sales agents were given "ample notification," thus satisfying "all administrative and legal requirements."
Loophole in the Law
The unit chief also notes that the selection slip includes a caveat that the purchaser must abide by the Lottery Division's regulations, and that the selection slip is being rewritten to accommodate the new prize structure; also that the Lottery Division is "in the process of reprinting" the online ticket stock and Lotto brochures.
That's fine, but it is what she did not say that is more interesting. While she did say that printing tickets takes some time, she did not say why the Gaming panel did not do what any nongovernmental agency certainly would be required to do: Wait until the tickets are changed to contain the correct information before changing the prize structure. It's that simple. And if it's legal to sell tickets to the gambling public with overstated odds contained on the ticket I'll eat my hat, or at least find a strict constructionist on the Supreme Court to advise me.
Do you suppose that jai alai or the dog track could get away with selling tickets that do not correctly state the odds? Or that gamblers would put up with such shenanigans? You bet not!
Inadequate State Response
While the response from the Department of Revenue Services looked more like a legal brief from a defendant's counsel than a reply to a troubled citizen, responses from Gov. Weicker and the attorney general were less helpful; both pretended they didn't notice that the letter they received was addressed to the Department of Revenue Services, and they referred my inquiries to that office anyway.
The eagle-eyed Department of Consumer Protection did notice that my letter was not addressed to their agency, but, at least, it offered the advice that I might want to consult a private attorney or consider use of small claims court. Thanks.
I ask you, as readers of The Hour, to help me fight city hall (in this case the statehouse) by demanding that the state pay me my $6, and pay anyone else who was bilked out of $3 or more -- and pay the $3 prize until the tickets show the correct odds.
Sure it might be a bureaucratic nightmare for the state to right this wrong, but right is right.
Lowell, where are you?
I wrote this column as an "Editor's Notebook" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Oct. 22, 1992.