Local News

Some Call For N.C. Lottery To Be Put On Hold

Posted November 3, 2005 7:44 a.m. EST

— One day after the Secretary of State's office asked prosecutors to begin a criminal investigation into a lottery vendor and three people who may have violated lobbying laws, some have called for the N.C. lottery to be put on hold.

"The corruption has now surfaced," said Chris Neely, state director for the conservative watchdog group Americans for Prosperity.

On Wednesday, the Secretary of State's office asked state prosecutors to begin a criminal investigation of Scientific Games Corp., company Vice President Alan Middleton and consultants Meredith Norris and Kevin Geddings. The three could be charged with a misdemeanor and barred from lobbying in North Carolina for two years if convicted.

The request came a day after Geddings resigned from the state lottery commission and Scientific Games revealed it paid him $24,500 this year for services.

Federal grand jury subpoenas issued last month also requested information from House Speaker Jim Black's office about the lottery and video poker industries, although Black's attorney has said the speaker is not a target of a federal investigation. The subpoenas also requested records specifically about Geddings, Middleton and Norris.

Neely, who opposed the lottery before it was signed into law, said the investigation has become too big for the lottery to continue.

"Stop all organization of the lottery until everything is known, all the answers are known and all officials are cleared or either convicted of wrongdoing," he said.

The Raleigh

News & Observer

's editorial board also wants Gov. Mike Easley to call a special session to reconsider the games.

A representative for Easley said the governor believes all the accusations need to be investigated further and he sees no reason why the lottery cannot move forward.

The representative also said the governor trusts that the lottery commission can move past the distractions and get the games going.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said Thursday that the accusations are about "more than the lottery."

"It's a matter of faith in government," she said.

She said that faith is now in question because investigators within her office found those trying to influence legislation violated laws.

Marshall said her office's findings are "reputation damaging, career-ending possibility."

"Therefore, it is very serious," she said.

But Marshall believes the lottery commission can salvage credibility.

"I think the lottery can survive," she said.

And despite the grumblings from some, the lottery commission is moving forward.

The group narrowed its search for a director to four candidates who all helped start lotteries in other states.

Two of the candidates are from South Carolina, and the others are from New Mexico and Tennessee.

The commission will start interviewing the finalists next Wednesday.

The position will pay more than $150,000 a year.