Local News

N.C. Lottery Law Is Legal, State Judge Rules

Posted March 21, 2006

— A judge ruled Tuesday that the passage of the state lottery law was legal, meaning the games can proceed as planned.

Lottery opponents had argued in court that the state should not be allowed to start selling tickets because the General Assembly illegally pushed through the law creating the game.

Plaintiffs contended that the lottery is a tax because at least 35 cents of every dollar generated by the games are earmarked for education. They said the House and Senate each failed to hold two roll-call votes on separate days for the bill creating the North Carolina Lottery.

The House approved the lottery bill last April in a 61-59 vote. In August, the Senate needed a tie-breaking vote from Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue for the measure to pass 25-24.

But State Superior Court Judge Henry Hight dismissed the lawsuit, saying the lottery is not a tax and was legally approved by the state Legislature.

"A tax is a forced contribution to government which has no necessary immediate relationship to a benefit conferred," Hight wrote in his ruling. No one is forced to play the lottery and the players get an immediate chance to win a prize in return for their purchase, Hight wrote.

Hight also ordered the plaintiffs to pay the state's legal expenses.

The North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, led by former state Supreme Court judge Robert Orr, represented many of the plaintiffs in the case. Orr said it will be a couple of days before the institute's board of directors can decide whether to appeal the case, but that he was inclined to fight on.

"This is not a single-elimination tournament. There are other games to be played," he said.

The lawsuit was filed in December, 3½ months after the lottery became law and after much of the work to establish the game had started.

More than 4,000 lottery ticket terminals have been installed statewide, 150 lottery workers have been hired and an advertising blitz is scheduled to start within days to herald the first sales of scratch-off tickets on March 30. The multistate Powerball game is slated to begin in North Carolina in late May, with other games debuting this fall.


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