Connecticut’s broken lottery
Oops, is that the right headline? “Broken?” How can that be — it keeps bringing in more and more money every year. The Connecticut Lottery Corporation (CLC) must be in good shape, yes? No — it’s not in good shape. In fact, it’s in worse shape than at any time in Lottery history.
Just look at the record… or at least what’s permitted to be seen. Before looking closely however, note that the Lottery has almost ALWAYS brought-in more and more money every year; so, no particular era can claim to be uniquely successful. The lottery, in a quasi-public state-owned monopoly, has success built-in. It’s the state’s most popular revenue-producer. It can’t lose.
A Connecticut Lottery pioneer (1970s), with the official title “Unit Chief,” was fond of saying that the Lottery must be “purer than Caesar’s wife.” In other words, integrity came first. Honesty, transparency, efficiency, accountability — these were the most important elements in those days. Now, they’re all broken. Let’s examine them one-by-one.
Integrity was shattered by revelations that a knowingly defective game, “5 Card Cash,”was only reluctantly discontinued because it was making money — despite retailer fraud that led to 15 arrests, a Lottery “first.” Whistle-blower warnings by its own security chief were disregarded and it took nine months to stop the game. (More about the Security Chief later.)
Honesty was certainly compromised when retailers discovered the flaw in the game that allowed them to commit criminal acts via advance knowledge of winning tickets, which they purchased for themselves. It’s likely that previously honest retailers became
crooks as a result. They were led into temptation… .
Transparency was blurred by Lottery management’s stonewalling of oversight efforts by its regulatory agency, The Department of Consumer Protection (DCP). To this day a mystery remains regarding the license status of the former Lottery president who was
separated four months short of the 10-year requirement for pension eligibility. She achieved pension tenure by a “scheme” uncovered by a State Auditors investigation.
The auditors predict that scheme may cost the state a half-million dollars. By the way, it does not include the special separation package that paid her $25,000 a month — for unspecified services — during which she was not allowed to re-enter Lottery offices or perform any prior duties. Members of the Lottery Board of Directors are silent about
the “scheme” they approved.
Efficiency was adversely affected by constant turnover of high-level personnel. Such turmoil loses institutional knowledge, creating lengthy learning curves for replacements. Some executives retired under pressure; others were summarily dismissed for not being “team players.” (In at least one case, a top officer had to sign a “non-disparagement agreement” in order to preserve retirement benefits.)
Also, it is notable that three lawyers now occupy the office of In-House Counsel, formerly manned by a single attorney (who was forced-out).
Accountability was abused when the whistle-blowing security chief faced the unique charge of “gross neglect,” wording never before used. He was blamed for errors made by two of his subordinates. The subordinates were disciplined, and the then-presiding
Lottery Board chairman opined that the chief should be subject to similar treatment by being the responsible officer. (In that logic, the President is responsible for the Security Chief, so, if he’s disciplined, should she be, too?) This issue became connected to the “5 Card Cash” debacle, with an accusation of “retaliation” for whistle-blowing.
A Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) trial, plus a civil lawsuit, has resulted. It’s a “he said-she said” situation that produced the words “lies and deceit” in accusations against a past interim president (by a successor past board chairman!).
And, lest we forget, stunning testimony at the CHRO trial disclosed a tale of FBI-assisted internal spying conducted by the former president and her successor. A prominent columnist compared them to “Lucy and Ethel”… but it’s not comic. It’s tragic.
The Lottery Board of Directors is comprised of unpaid appointees who seldom attend meetings in person. Board Minutes show that a quorum is usually reached only by telephone participation. Members don’t exhibit much interest, knowledge, or dedication,
but they do show compliance with management’s agenda. The notorious “golden parachute” to the previous president was probably illicit… and they were complicit.
It should be especially embarrassing for attorneys who serve on the board. They surely know better than to conspire in a “scheme” — and to be associated with executives who can be accused of “lies and deceit.” The State Bar Association should take notice.
Finally, a word about morale. It’s a touchy subject in any organization, but has apparently reached an all-time low at CLC. An in-house staff-wide survey taken in April generated a comparison likening the working environment to North Korea! Yes… the Lottery is definitely BROKEN.
Think the Lottery is “purer than Caesar’s wife”? I don’t. And it’s a shame.
William Hennessey of Niantic is a former Channel 30 news anchor and was employed by the Connecticut Lottery for 27 years.
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