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Lawsuit filed by N.C. Lottery foes to be heard Monday

North Carolina LotteryNorth Carolina Lottery: Lawsuit filed by N.C. Lottery foes to be heard Monday

A court battle that starts Monday in Wake County could be the last chance for critics to stop next month's launch of the N.C. lottery.

Some court watchers say the lawsuit faces high hurdles. But the plaintiffs, who are filing briefs today, say House and Senate leaders thwarted the law by forcing two votes on the measure in quick succession last year.

If the suit succeeds, lawmakers would likely have to vote again on the lottery that they approved last year by the slimmest of margins.

And in a revote, some of the suit's backers say, the lottery would lose.

Pitfalls in setting up the game -- including resignations by three of the nine lottery commissioners and questions over a lottery vendor's political influence -- could turn wavering House and Senate members against it, said David Mills, a plaintiff in the suit.

"Decisions were clearly made about the lottery in back rooms," said Mills, who runs the Raleigh liberal think tank Common Cause. "In a way, you can see the lawsuit as a second chance for North Carolina to do the right thing."

State officials, meanwhile, have set up lottery offices, signed multi-million-dollar contracts to run the game and taken applications from thousands of retailers who want to start selling scratch-off tickets March 30. Lawmakers who ushered the lottery through the legislature believe the lawsuit has no standing and there's no way it will slow them down.

Question of lottery as tax

The lawsuit's plaintiffs include the range of lottery opponents, from Mills' group to the conservative Family Policy Council and a pair of Republican lawmakers, Sen. Eddie Goodall of Matthews and Rep. Paul Stam, who lives in a Raleigh suburb.They've teamed with lawyers for the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, who argue lawmakers didn't follow all the constitution's rules in rushing to approve the game.

The legal question, according to lottery backers and opponents, is whether buying a lottery ticket is the equivalent of paying taxes.

If it is, then lawmakers fumbled. The state's constitution treats tax bills differently from other legislation. Tax bills have to receive two "yes" votes on the House and Senate floor, taken on separate days. Other bills can have both votes on the same day.

The lottery squeaked through the House by a one-vote margin. Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue had to break a tie to get the lottery through the Senate.

Leaders in both chambers, afraid some lottery backers would lose their nerve, each held their second vote on the same day as the first.

Backers say the quick passage is not a problem, though, because the lottery is not a tax.
"They will put you in jail if you don't pay your taxes," said Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, the chamber's rules chairman. "We're not going to incarcerate anyone if they don't buy a lottery ticket."

Supreme Court potential

Superior Court Judge Henry Hight will hear the case first, although advocates on both sides say the state Supreme Court will likely have the final word.

Plaintiffs hope Hight will order lottery officials to stop their work.

Hight's rulings have caused cheering and angst for both political parties. Last year, he halted plans for a statewide revote in the race for agriculture commissioner -- a move that cleared the way for Republican candidate Steve Troxler to take office. Hight also made two rulings in a close state school superintendent race last year that made it easier for Democrat June Atkinson to prevail.

Former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Jim Exum said the lottery suit is the type of case that could quickly jump to the high court because few facts would be in dispute.

Exum, now a Greensboro attorney, notes he hasn't examined the plaintiffs' arguments, but said such constitutional challenges are hard to win.

Court precedent forces judges to presume laws are constitutional. Challengers have to prove otherwise, Exum said.

"There is a definite deference to the legislative will."

Charlotte Observer

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16 comments. Last comment 11 years ago by NCPicks.
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mylollipop's avatar - Trek STLOGO6.png

United States
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October 21, 2005
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Posted: February 9, 2006, 10:46 am - IP Logged

If the plaintiffs win, they should pay for all the equipment purchased to implement  this lottery.  They should have had a lobbying group to lobby against the lottery before the vote.  talk about bad sportsmanship.Dead

    cps10's avatar - Lottery-004.jpg
    The Carolinas - Charlotte
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    Posted: February 9, 2006, 10:54 am - IP Logged

    Sore losers to be sure. I doubt that this lawsuit will make anything but waves. I agree that it seemed a little quick, but the state's counsel would never allow contracts to be signed, equipment to be purchased, etc if they thought that this lawsuit held any merit.

    If indeed the suit is successful, I would move out of NC just because of the embarrassment that it would create.

      Tenaj's avatar - michellea
      Charlotte NC
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      June 18, 2005
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      Posted: February 9, 2006, 12:55 pm - IP Logged

      Yes NodCPS10, I read in the Observer last week or so that we will have ball draws for pick 3 or 4.  They said "ping pong" balls pulled from a drum.

      Did you read that article?  It when the contract was chosen. 

      takeemtothebank

        cps10's avatar - Lottery-004.jpg
        The Carolinas - Charlotte
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        Posted: February 9, 2006, 1:26 pm - IP Logged

        tenaj - no, i missed that...but that's definitely encouraging, wouldn't you say?

          Tenaj's avatar - michellea
          Charlotte NC
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          Posted: February 9, 2006, 1:35 pm - IP Logged

          tenaj - no, i missed that...but that's definitely encouraging, wouldn't you say?

          Yes NodYes, it is encouraging.  It will be more encouraging if they would quit pussy footing around with the pick 3.  They still printed pick 3 or 4.

          takeemtothebank

            cps10's avatar - Lottery-004.jpg
            The Carolinas - Charlotte
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            September 12, 2005
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            Posted: February 9, 2006, 1:45 pm - IP Logged

            We need to have both, one or the other just shuts out 50% of the avid numbers players. Maybe even a higher % if they choose Pick 4 as their daily #'s game.

            NOW...that being said...I wouldn't be opposed to them doing say a Midday draw of Pick-3, and then an Evening draw of Pick-4, or vice-versa. That would still be one draw of each every day.

            But....in no way would I want it like Mass. where you form your Pick-3 combos from the Pick-4 number. Too hard to get a read on that. Too much positional analysis needed for that. Then again, maybe that's why MASS does it, to make it harder for its residents to win.

              Tenaj's avatar - michellea
              Charlotte NC
              United States
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              Posted: February 9, 2006, 2:14 pm - IP Logged

              We need to have both, one or the other just shuts out 50% of the avid numbers players. Maybe even a higher % if they choose Pick 4 as their daily #'s game.

              NOW...that being said...I wouldn't be opposed to them doing say a Midday draw of Pick-3, and then an Evening draw of Pick-4, or vice-versa. That would still be one draw of each every day.

              But....in no way would I want it like Mass. where you form your Pick-3 combos from the Pick-4 number. Too hard to get a read on that. Too much positional analysis needed for that. Then again, maybe that's why MASS does it, to make it harder for its residents to win.

              Yes NodWe will see.

              takeemtothebank

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                Posted: February 9, 2006, 11:28 pm - IP Logged

                I like that the default position is that the law is correct as written.

                  LOTTOMIKE's avatar - cash money.jpg
                  Tennessee
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                  October 15, 2004
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                  Posted: February 11, 2006, 9:00 am - IP Logged

                  if they did get a pick 3 or pick 4 when would the games start?

                    cps10's avatar - Lottery-004.jpg
                    The Carolinas - Charlotte
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                    Posted: February 11, 2006, 11:01 am - IP Logged

                    I would say probably sometime in the fall or so.

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                      Northern California
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                      August 9, 2005
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                      Posted: February 11, 2006, 5:03 pm - IP Logged

                      I bet it will be sooner than that.

                       

                      Once Shaheen earns his start-up bonus (a pittance compared to what RP got in TN) he'll need something to earn his next chunk o'cash - like launching all the games he can as fast as he can.

                       

                      I predict they will have high pricepoint (as high as $10 and maybe even $20) scratch tickets within the first year as well - although the mandated percentage return to the state is a little high to go too hog wild with high payout tickets.

                        LOTTOMIKE's avatar - cash money.jpg
                        Tennessee
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                        Posted: February 13, 2006, 8:23 am - IP Logged

                        i'll be glad when they quit fighting this and let it happen.....

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                          Posted: February 13, 2006, 2:59 pm - IP Logged

                          The arguements have been heard.The judge will give his rulling later this week,on the motion to suspend lottery activity only.As I stated earlier,the

                          default position is that the lottery is legal and,therefore I don't see how he could suspend the activities of a legal lottery. 

                            Tenaj's avatar - michellea
                            Charlotte NC
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                            Posted: February 13, 2006, 3:04 pm - IP Logged

                            The arguements have been heard.The judge will give his rulling later this week,on the motion to suspend lottery activity only.As I stated earlier,the

                            default position is that the lottery is legal and,therefore I don't see how he could suspend the activities of a legal lottery. 

                            CrazyRumor has it that they bought this judge.  Since I play online I don't care.  NC has been known to start big projects and abandon them at millions of dollars of tax payers expense.  Especially Charlotte.

                            takeemtothebank