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Questions arise about funds used for Calif. Lottery party

California LotteryCalifornia Lottery: Questions arise about funds used for Calif. Lottery party

The California Lottery handed out a Nintendo Wii, several iPods, digital cameras and gift cards as prizes during a $43,629 employee recognition celebration and charged some of the items as "training" expenses.

During a Nov. 8 event commemorating the $20 billion the lottery has provided education since its 1984 inception, state officials used lottery administration funds to host a prime rib dinner for more than 300 employees and their guests at the DoubleTree Hotel in Sacramento.

As part of the evening's entertainment, local celebrity Jack Gallagher held a mock Big Spin game and handed out the prizes to winners in the audience. A spokesman for the lottery said the prizes were considered "training" expenses so that employees — who are not allowed to play the lottery — could familiarize themselves with games.

"Employees are certainly worth the recognition, and it was a milestone for the lottery," said spokesman Al Lundeen.

The state controller is now disputing the dinner and prizes and is asking that most of the money be returned to his office. The controller's auditors expect to review all claims from the past five years.

"We compared those receipts to bills we had paid and determined those events were not in support of the department's mission, nor did it benefit the state," said Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for Controller John Chiang. State law requires public money be used to further a department's mission, and "meals are not considered an expenditure that benefits the state," Jordan said.

Lottery ticket sales have declined in fiscal year 2006-07 vs. fiscal year 2005-06, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed to lease out the entire operation to "turn ticket sales and marketing over to someone who could do it better."

Last week, the lottery commission was told that year-over-year sales were down $266 million, which put education contributions off by $87 million.

Lottery officials said the benefit of boosting employee morale outweighed the event's tab. Funding, they said, came from the lottery's administration account — which is a percentage of ticket sales — and not from taxpayers.

"I thought it was a really good idea," said John Mass, a Schwarzenegger appointee and chairman of the Lottery Commission. "There are different games introduced every month that many of the employees don't know enough about. ... This is a fun and unique way to introduce them to the lottery."

Mass said the lottery often gives excess administration funds to the schools.

As guests dined on $32 prime rib dinners in the hotel's ballroom Nov. 8, Gallagher, who was the original host of "The Big Spin" and has a recurring role on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," hosted mock lottery games as part of the evening's entertainment. Instead of winning cash, attendees were given Best Buy and Borders gift certificates as prizes, along with digital photo frames, portable DVD players and Nikon digital cameras.

One lottery commissioner said that he wasn't aware the event was held at a hotel or that prizes were given. In the past, employee recognition events have been held at the lottery's headquarters parking lot.

"I thought it was right there on the grounds of the lottery headquarters," said Commissioner Manuel Ortega. Ortega, a former police chief, said the high cost of the party could have been "an aberration" because of the $20 billion celebration.

Since 2003, the cost of the lottery's annual employee recognition event has varied between $6,000 and $18,400.

Lundeen said entertainment and prizes were added this year to celebrate staff contributions. The department employs about 620 people statewide.

The event also raised money for school districts. Lundeen said guests contributed a truck full of school supplies that were distributed to students at the North Sacramento School District. An additional $3,000 in cash and gift certificates were sent to the Poway Unified School District, where 300 students were affected by the Southern California wildfires.

Other state agencies have been known to host employee recognition events but rarely do they involve food and prizes. Each year, the governor recognizes civil servants for extraordinary acts of heroism deserving of the "Medal of Valor." The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation hosts a similar event recognizing the contributions of its employees.

The latter event held at the Capitol costs about $7,000, according to Margot Bach, director of special projects for the corrections department. Lunch is donated by the California Correctional Supervisors Organization, Bach said.

"We want to honor people appropriately, but we don't want to spend a lot of money," Bach said.

Sacramento Bee

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13 comments. Last comment 9 years ago by Coin Toss.
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spy153's avatar - maren

United States
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December 15, 2005
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Posted: January 25, 2008, 8:49 am - IP Logged

I feel every job should have their own unique perks.  Employee morale is very important.  As long as they keep it reasonable and it sounds like they did.  The company my husband works for use to do things like that, but since they got a new c.e.o., they have taken more than they have given.  No more thrills for them.  Which made working for that company no different than working for any other "hole in the ground."

voir-vous dans mes reves!Cool

    AuntiePat's avatar - animaniacs10
    Just outside of Cleveland, OH
    United States
    Member #54079
    August 3, 2007
    106 Posts
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    Posted: January 25, 2008, 12:28 pm - IP Logged

    I feel every job should have their own unique perks.  Employee morale is very important.  As long as they keep it reasonable and it sounds like they did.  The company my husband works for use to do things like that, but since they got a new c.e.o., they have taken more than they have given.  No more thrills for them.  Which made working for that company no different than working for any other "hole in the ground."

    I Agree!

      Avatar
      Northern California
      United States
      Member #19948
      August 9, 2005
      151 Posts
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      Posted: January 25, 2008, 12:40 pm - IP Logged

      I'd be surprised if the lottery didn't hit up their vendors to help underwrite a lot of the costs...the "old" CSL would have.

       

       CA is not the only lottery who never seems to be quite sure who they are. Are they a state agency (like all the rest) or are they a nimble business enterprise? If you talk to the employees they want all the protection of their civil service status and union collective bargaining agreements - no accountability for work product or for even showing up, great retirement and annual bonuses with no link to personal or organizational performance.

      They ARE different in a lot of ways. They don't have a legislatively approved budget for one, they operate off their own revenues. They are overseen by a Commission appointed by the Gov with legislative oversight. But by law, the Commission and the Director run the shop. 

       

      On balance, this was a dumb thing to do. Even if they are technically allowed to do it (I think the Controller is lining up for a run for Governor) the public relations downside hurts the organization more than they benefited from having employees getting a meal and prizes.

       

      Many, many employees have retired over the last 2 years. If ever there was a time to really make some changes, it would be now that a lot of the old "fossils" have left.

        Avatar
        Los Angeles CA
        United States
        Member #55727
        October 16, 2007
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        Posted: January 25, 2008, 1:50 pm - IP Logged

        So they had a nice big party to celebrate their accomplishments for helping education in the State of California, whats the big deal? Everything seemed legit to me and everyone who works hard through out the year should be rewarded for their efforts, which this orginization did.

        EXMECHANIC

        "My dollar buys hope, what does yours do?" 

          Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
          Chief Bottle Washer
          New Jersey
          United States
          Member #1
          May 31, 2000
          23267 Posts
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          Posted: January 25, 2008, 4:50 pm - IP Logged

          So they had a nice big party to celebrate their accomplishments for helping education in the State of California, whats the big deal? Everything seemed legit to me and everyone who works hard through out the year should be rewarded for their efforts, which this orginization did.

          It's mainly because the media in California has been waging a war against the lottery ever since the Mega Millions dust-up.  That was when the Democrats were trying to use the lottery to make Schwarzenegger look bad by saying that the lottery added Mega Millions illegally.

          Ever since then the lottery has been demonized by the media.

           

          Check the State Lottery Report Card
          What grade did your lottery earn?

           

          Sign the Petition for True Lottery Drawings
          Help eliminate computerized drawings!

            justxploring's avatar - villiarna
            Wandering Aimlessly
            United States
            Member #25360
            November 5, 2005
            4461 Posts
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            Posted: January 25, 2008, 4:58 pm - IP Logged

            I have to agree that a $32 dinner isn't that much for a catered affair these days. In this failing economy, maybe they could have toned down their celebration.  However, unless I am reading the article incorrectly, the total cost was less than $71 per employee which is reasonable.  $43,629  divided by 620 people = $70.37. 

            Regarding gifts for excellence, in 2006 I got a $50 gift card to Sharper Image and so did a lot of other people.  So what?  It didn't have any effect on the clients or their benefits.  It was a way the company said thank you to us since we were grossly underpaid anyway! 

            Drivingdabusiness has a good point.  Public relations is very important, and when someone is using $1 of his hard earned money to buy a ticket, he doesn't want to think it might go to an employee's new digital camera. 

              spy153's avatar - maren

              United States
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              December 15, 2005
              1198 Posts
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              Posted: January 25, 2008, 7:46 pm - IP Logged

              It's mainly because the media in California has been waging a war against the lottery ever since the Mega Millions dust-up.  That was when the Democrats were trying to use the lottery to make Schwarzenegger look bad by saying that the lottery added Mega Millions illegally.

              Ever since then the lottery has been demonized by the media.

              Well, I have to admit that is stupid to do to something that is bringing in so much money for your state. 

              voir-vous dans mes reves!Cool

                Tenaj's avatar - michellea
                Charlotte NC
                United States
                Member #17406
                June 18, 2005
                4053 Posts
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                Posted: January 25, 2008, 11:35 pm - IP Logged

                Hurray!Good for the employees.  Glad they had the money to do it.  Most employers poor mouth about doing any kind of employee appreciation and sometimes only upper managerment get bonuses.

                takeemtothebank

                  benmas's avatar - waveform
                  Rhode Island
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                  October 28, 2007
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                  Posted: January 27, 2008, 3:47 am - IP Logged

                  Its ok what happened.  Keep in mind that employees are not allowed to play any lotto games so they get smth back with prizes like these...

                  If you had a choice would you choose to be a lottery employee knowing that you wont get a chance at play or would you do smth else ????..(They make decent money i bet)

                    ThatScaryChick's avatar - x1MqPuM
                    Idaho
                    United States
                    Member #56506
                    November 21, 2007
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                    Posted: January 27, 2008, 12:41 pm - IP Logged

                    So they had a nice big party to celebrate their accomplishments for helping education in the State of California, whats the big deal? Everything seemed legit to me and everyone who works hard through out the year should be rewarded for their efforts, which this orginization did.

                    I agree. I think it is cool that they received a reward for all their hard work.

                    "No one remembers the person who almost climbed the mountain, only the person who eventually gets to the top."

                      LuckyLilly's avatar - savy chick.png

                      United States
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                      February 26, 2007
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                      Posted: January 27, 2008, 1:16 pm - IP Logged

                      Its ok what happened.  Keep in mind that employees are not allowed to play any lotto games so they get smth back with prizes like these...

                      If you had a choice would you choose to be a lottery employee knowing that you wont get a chance at play or would you do smth else ????..(They make decent money i bet)

                      Not all that decent in Idaho.  $19 to $22 per hour for a detective.  I mean it's not poverty wages or anything, but nothing great either.  About the same as a mail carrier I think.

                      http://idaholottery.com/jobs.asp

                        justxploring's avatar - villiarna
                        Wandering Aimlessly
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                        Member #25360
                        November 5, 2005
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                        Posted: February 1, 2008, 4:17 pm - IP Logged

                        Not all that decent in Idaho.  $19 to $22 per hour for a detective.  I mean it's not poverty wages or anything, but nothing great either.  About the same as a mail carrier I think.

                        http://idaholottery.com/jobs.asp

                        For CA I realize that's not a fortune if you have a mortgage and a family to support, but if someone offered me $20 an hour with benefits, I'd give up playing the lottery.

                          Coin Toss's avatar - shape barbed.jpg
                          Zeta Reticuli Star System
                          United States
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                          January 17, 2006
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                          Posted: February 2, 2008, 10:11 am - IP Logged

                          Most people who work for a state lottery that absolutely have to play just go to a neighboring state to play.

                          They have to promise not to play the lottery they work for, not all lotteries.

                          Those who run the lotteries love it when players look for consistency in something that's designed not to have any.

                          Lep

                          There is one and only one 'proven' system, and that is to book the action. No matter the game, let the players pick their own losers.