The Democrat-controlled California legislature, which has taken an adversarial role against the California Lottery for the past several years, has not met its obligation to change state law by a court-ordered deadline, aimed at ensuring participation in multi-state lotto is fair to education, lottery officials said Wednesday.
The lottery bill making the needed change — extension of California's prize-claim period to match 11 other Mega Millions states — remained stalled on the eve of Friday's deadline.
Experts said the situation leaves only a plea for more time or an administrative fix that might not satisfy the judge as options.
Lottery spokesman Rob McAndrews refused to comment Wednesday on the agency's intentions, saying only that it would respond to the order with something other than legislation by its Friday deadline.
An in-house, administrative solution might be unfair to California gamblers because they would not have the extra six months to claim Mega Millions prizes like their counterparts in other states that allow a year, lawmakers and attorneys said.
If the lottery pursues an administrative solution, an anti-gambling group said it may seek an order holding the lottery in contempt of court.
The judge also could take such action on his own in the case, triggered by MediaNews Group reports.
Sen. Dean Florez, a Fresno-area Democrat who chairs the upper-house committee that oversees the lottery, said he would be "surprised" if an administrative solution works.
"They are stuck and need to do the legwork needed to get a bill out of the Legislature," Florez said.
The lottery's bill stalled because Florez wanted to bolster the lottery's allocation to schools above the current one-third of sales — a move opposed by the lottery.
Though given a year to respond, the lottery has not forwarded typical legal responses, according to the judge's clerk and attorneys in the case.
Sacramento Judge Lloyd Connelly ordered California to extend its 180-day deadline for collecting prizes to the year allowed by other Mega Millions states because the difference could short California schools, since unclaimed prizes revert to education.
A law changing California's prize deadline would have fixed the problem for education — and would have taken care of gamblers. Alternative administrative solutions likely would not help California gamblers, who have six months less to collect prizes than players in other states, experts said.
In eyeing administrative solutions, the lottery has looked at insurance or a bond covering late collection of such large Mega Millions' prizes in other states that it would affect allocations to California education, Florez said.
Fred Jones, an attorney for Californians Against Gambling Expansion, said the development is another in a series that not only reflects poorly on the lottery but advances Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's effort to privatize the operation, with less state oversight.
"Not conforming to the judge's order after over a year, I fear only adds more impetus to the growing momentum behind the privatization proposal," Jones said.
The Democrat-controlled California legislature has been a thorn in the California Lottery's side ever since the Republican Schwarzenegger Administration added the Mega Millions game to the state's lottery offerings.
This comes despite the Mega Millions game's success in the state, and the many millions of dollars added to education, directly due to the game's additional revenue.