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Ex-cop told to lie to claim Illinois Lottery prize

Illinois LotteryIllinois Lottery: Ex-cop told to lie to claim Illinois Lottery prize

Ron Smith was surprised to learn in August that he was banned from claiming a $995 Illinois Lottery prize because he had been working a security job with the state agency that oversees horse tracks.

He continued to be amazed a couple of weeks later when a Lottery staffer called and asked him if he wanted to travel to Springfield and claim the cash on an apparent wink-and-nod basis. A telephone message later left at his house told him he could get the cash in Des Plaines, closer to his Will County house.

Smith, a retired suburban police chief, declined.

"I felt strongly it just wasn't right," said Smith, who spent 34 years as a Frankfort police officer, his last six months as chief before retiring in 2003. "If I deserve it and I should legally have it, then fine. ... I didn't want to do something as an employee that should not be proper."

Smith, 57, said he can't remember exactly who made him the first offer to "bring somebody in, sign over the ticket to them and we'll pay you the money." But his point is not that the woman committed an egregious wrong.

The employee, he said, sounded like she was trying to be accommodating when it comes to dealing with gambling rules that seem to defy logic for more than 2,000 Revenue Department employees.

No. 23 on checklist

The restrictions on who can gamble where (see chart below) were compounded in 2003 by Gov. Blagojevich's decision to consolidate operations of the state Racing Board and Lottery -- along with the state Liquor Control Commission -- into the Revenue Department to attempt to save millions of dollars.

That makes the Lottery off limits to all 2,050 Revenue Department employees -- something Smith said he wasn't aware of when he took his Racing Board job July 1, though he recalled signing a pledge that stated he would not bet at state horse tracks or own a horse in Illinois.

The Lottery information should have been No. 23 on a checklist Smith should have signed at employee orientation, Revenue Department spokeswoman Geraldine Conrad said. Regardless, Smith never should have been given an opportunity to claim the Lottery prize.

Complains about rules

"That is not Revenue Department policy, and whoever might have said that didn't reflect Revenue Department policy," Conrad said.

The department has begun reviewing policies on employees and gambling in the wake of a Chicago Sun-Times story about them earlier this month.

Smith, who has played the Lottery for years and once won $40,000 playing Little Lotto, said he isn't sweating the $995. He resigned from the Racing Board on Dec. 1 not because of the Lottery flap, but because his job as a security monitor required him to travel long distances to tracks such as Arlington and Maywood.

Still, "I've been in law enforcement 34 years. There should be a basis on which they make these [gambling] rules," said Smith, who complained to a Lottery official about them about a week after he initially was denied his claim. "That basis should be conflict of interest.

"I'm not sure what the conflict of interest would be" with the Lottery, he said. "I went around to the barns to check on horses and make sure they're not being doctored."

Ban Racing Board bets? 'Silly nonsense'

It would be "silly nonsense" for Illinois Racing Board members to be forbidden from placing bets at horse tracks because they're not only regulators of the industry but fans and boosters of it, too, the board's chairwoman said.

"It would be a shame to say that a horse-racing fan who loved the industry and was dedicated to the industry couldn't serve on the Racing Board because he couldn't bet," said Lorna Propes, who heads the 11-member panel. "This is about a sport. A 100-year-old sport that people love."

A leading anti-gambling activist said horse racing also is about money . . . and there's a possibility that Racing Board members could get inside information about races because of their positions.

"They either regulate or they bet -- it seems the public can demand they do one or the other," said the Rev. Tom Grey, a Rockford resident who heads the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. "Who knows that the fix isn't in?"

Propes, however, challenged anyone to find "any whisper of a scandal" from a Racing Board member betting over the years.

Illinois Gaming Board members can't bet at casinos, which would seem to dictate that Racing Board members couldn't bet at tracks.

But a difference between horse racing and casino gambling is that people bet "against the house" at casinos, whereas they're betting against each other -- not the tracks themselves -- during horse races.

The Racing Board's staff members, Propes noted, can't bet at tracks because they're interacting with track employees on a daily basis. And neither Racing Board employees nor members can own horses in Illinois.







GAMBLING AND STATE WORKERS

The Illinois Department of Revenue oversees regulation of the Lottery, casino gambling and horse-track wagering in Illinois. But rules regarding where individual department employees and affiliated board members can gamble vary widely:











Department division or boardPlay Lottery? Gamble at casinos?Bet at tracks?
Racing Board members Yes Yes Yes
Racing Board employees No Yes No
Gaming Board members No NoYes
Gaming Board employees No No Yes
Lottery and all other Revenue Dept. employees No YesYes

Sources: Illinois Department of Revenue, Illinois Racing Board, Illinois Gaming Board

Chicago Sun-Times

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7 comments. Last comment 12 years ago by CASH Only.
Page 1 of 1

United States
Member #3676
February 10, 2004
425 Posts
Offline
Posted: January 18, 2005, 9:30 am - IP Logged

This is the one thing wrong with America, common sense is sometimes so hard to find with the bureaucracy of things.

    Maverick's avatar - yinyang
    USA
    United States
    Member #8242
    October 29, 2004
    1133 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: January 18, 2005, 6:35 pm - IP Logged

    Article says: Lottery and all other Revenue Dept. employees are not allowed to play the Lottery. I wonder what their salaries are. But I guess it doesn't matter if they have no urge to play. But if they did, couldn't they just have a close friend/family member buy the ticket for them/claim it also?

      Littleoldlady's avatar - basket
      Clarksville
      United States
      Member #487
      July 15, 2002
      17638 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: January 18, 2005, 6:54 pm - IP Logged

      It's not worth the fall out.  If they can't play, they can't play.

      If you know your number is going to hit, have patience and then KILL IT!

      You never know when you will get another hit.

        Maverick's avatar - yinyang
        USA
        United States
        Member #8242
        October 29, 2004
        1133 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: January 18, 2005, 7:23 pm - IP Logged
        Quote: Originally posted by Littleoldlady on January 18, 2005


        It's not worth the fall out.  If they can't play, they can't play.


        True losing their job isn't worth it, but if they did have the urge to play, couldn't they just have a close friend/family member buy the ticket for them/claim it also? Loopholes I think it's called.
          BobP's avatar - bobp avatar.png
          Dump Water Florida
          United States
          Member #380
          June 5, 2002
          3102 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: January 19, 2005, 2:52 am - IP Logged

          Usually your family at the same residence can't play either or something like that.  The link has to be out far enough you wouldn't trust them with the winning ticket.  BobP

            MADDOG10's avatar - smoke
            Beautiful Florida
            United States
            Member #5709
            July 18, 2004
            20108 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: January 19, 2005, 6:01 pm - IP Logged

             come on folks, common sense would go a long way here...! whats good for one, should be good for another. another lawmaker gone haywire..!

                                                         

                                                           "  When Injustice Becomes Law, Resistance Becomes Duty "


              United States
              Member #379
              June 5, 2002
              11296 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: January 20, 2005, 5:14 pm - IP Logged

              I'm surprised at the categories of people not allowed to play the Illinois Lottery.