Numerous polls show players do not trust computerized drawings
Did Arkansas Lottery Commission hire the right team?
Senator proposes bill scrapping the lottery
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Despite nearly universal player mistrust of computerized lottery drawings, the new Arkansas Lottery director made the inexplicable decision this week to forgo real mechanical lottery ball drawings, and use a computer program to select the winning numbers in the state's new lottery.
The commission met at Philander Smith College in Little Rock and approved an intent to award the contract for online draw games to Intralot, the Greek firm that was the only company to bid last week for the games. Intralot says it could have the games up and running by Sept. 28. Lottery director Ernie Passailaigue had set an Oct. 29 deadline to get games up and running.
Under the contract, Intralot would receive 2.45 percent of net lottery sales.
The commission considered live drawings for the games, but Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue told commissioners that while most people prefer live draws, they are expensive. He said the commission could always switch to a live draw in the future, but if it started out with one, it would be hard to change from that format.
Passailaigue says the method saves more than $700,000, but like all states that try to justify computerized drawings, the negative impact of player mistrust was not factored in the explanation. With states using traditional lottery drawings doing generally better in the current recession, Arkansas residents will likely demand answers.
The animated drawings would be broadcast via webcasts over the Internet.
Local media reports have pointed to Lottery Post's Petition for True Lottery Drawings and associated educational materials that foretell the difficulties to come. (www.lotterypost.com/petition-true-drawings.aspx) Lottery Post has called on Arkansas residents to get involved and sign the petition.
In several polls conducted in the past two years, lottery players have indicated by an overwhelming 93%-7% margin that they prefer traditional ball drawings, in which the exact means of number selection can be witnessed by a layman observer.
Lottery players bemoan the fact that there is no possible means to view the means by which a computerized drawing selects the numbers. From problems as benign as a simple programmer error to a malicious attempt to steal a jackpot by secretly rigging the computer program and then erasing the offending program, corruption of the draw results can happen without the possibility of knowing.
And if the Arkansas Lottery Commission were to investigate the incident rate of computerized drawing errors in other states, they would conclude that the Arkansas Lottery will almost certainly suffer a similar problem at some point.
In fact, errors in the computer programs in other states have caused catastrophic problems that rendered many thousands of tickets unwinnable. In some cases, those problems silently remained in place for months, as unwitting players purchased lottery tickets with absolutely no chance of winning.
Is it possible to reverse course and convince or compel the lottery to use real lottery draw equipment?
Looking to other states such as Tennessee for examples, lottery directors — especially high-profile, highly-paid directors like Passailaigue — will practically never reverse a decision once it is made. Whether it is their reputation at stake to justify the high salary, or simply an unwillingness to admit mistakes, the lottery tends to forge ahead with the original decision as the only option.
The only method this reporter has seen that can effect changes of this magnitude is legislation that forces the lottery's hand and compels the lottery to listen to its customer base. Such legislative action is only effective when it is directed by lawmakers who have the determination to create legislation that forces the lottery to do the right thing, and the fortitude to push it all the way to a vote.
Senator proposes scrapping the whole thing
A state senator is proposing that that the law setting up Arkansas' lottery be repealed.
State Sen. Sue Madison of Fayetteville said Friday that she'll ask a legislative committee to study her proposal to repeal the legislation setting up the Arkansas Lottery Commission. Arkansas voters in November approved an amendment authorizing the state to set up a lottery to raise money for college scholarships.
Madison says she doesn't think lawmakers thoroughly considered the consequences of the state setting up a lottery and said she regrets signing on as a sponsor to the lottery law earlier this year. Madison says she voted against the lottery amendment in November.
Madison's proposal comes as the lottery faces criticism over the high pay its director and other top officials have received, as well as the latest decision to institute computerized drawings.