Local News

Odds of Lottery Committee Meeting Are Longer Than Any Game's Chances

Posted April 2, 2008 7:26 p.m. EDT
Updated April 3, 2008 9:03 a.m. EDT

— Is the state of North Carolina breaking its own laws when it comes to the lottery?

In August 2006, Gov. Mike Easley signed a bill into law that established a lottery oversight committee. It is supposed to meet four times a year, but it hasn't met yet.

More than $300 million from lottery revenues last year went to North Carolina schools. One of the lottery oversight committee's functions is to make sure that money is used in the right way.

The committee, formed with nine members of the general public, is also supposed to monitor the overall operation of the lottery, meet quarterly and give lawmakers an annual report. But none of that has happened.

“We have a committee that's designed to oversee and that doesn't meet. That's a pretty big crack that it's fallen through,” said Chris Fitzsimon, executive director of government watchdog group NC Policy Watch.

All but two lawmakers voted in favor of creating the committee. And several told WRAL, they had no idea it was not meeting.

Easley said that does not mean the lottery is operating without a series of checks and balances.

“They are certainly getting plenty of oversight by the Legislature, and it's coming along pretty well,” he said.

Lottery director Tom Shaheen agrees.

“We have gone through two financial audits.We have gone through a security audit. We are at the tail end of a performance audit, and we're at the beginning of our second security audit, so there are numerous means to oversee what's going on at this lottery,”  Shaheen said.

Still, the political watchdog group said it is a matter of the law.

“The law requires that we have a committee made up of public citizens that make sure the lottery money is supposed to go and the lottery is run how it's supposed to be run,” Fitzsimon said.

A committee member with whom WRAL spoke with said the panel never met because it was never called to meet.

House Speaker Joe Hackney appointed a new co-chair to the committee Tuesday. WRAL was told there is a conference call scheduled, and the committee plans to meet as a whole some time late this month.