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Az officials: Lottery scratch-game practices sound

What’s questions: practice of selling tickets after grand prizes claimed

The Arizona Lottery looks on the up and up despite a Phoenix lawyer filing lawsuits against state lotteries, including Colorado’s and Indiana’s, claiming deceptive practices regarding Scratchers tickets.

Rob Carey, the leader of the lotto crusade and a former top aide in the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, said what’s questioned in other states is the practice of selling Scratchers tickets after the grand prizes are claimed.

Similar lawsuits against state lotteries are popping up across the country – one of the most recent was filed by a business professor in Virginia – but Arizona Lottery representatives said a suit against them would fail because they believe they have sound policies in place.

“Everybody is kind of appalled now that it’s (the policy is) out in the mainstream,” said Carey, who works for Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, a law firm with offices in Phoenix.

“Why do you need to cheat on top of a game that’s designed to be extremely profitable for the state?” he asked.

Arizona Lottery Director Art Macias Jr. said the agency decided in December 2000 to immediately end Scratchers games after the last grand prize is claimed.

The Arizona Lottery sells tickets for more than 20 Scratchers games at a time for $2 to $10, and grand prizes range from $10,000 to $100,000.

Macias said Arizona’s policy does not cheat its consumers.

Carey said if the Arizona Lottery’s policy is truly what the gaming director says it is, he will not sue Arizona.

Carey also said, however, that he won’t rule anything out if he thinks otherwise.

“This lottery case is not a case about money; it’s a case about principle,” Carey said. “This is something that if shown to me it’s still a problem, I’d probably take action, but I’m hoping Arizona stepped up to the plate and did the right thing.”

Carey, whose Colorado suit is pending, unsuccessfully sued the Arizona Lottery in 2000.

The suit was thrown out based on a technicality.

Macias said a change in the Lottery’s policy had already been in the works since 1998 when the Government Accountability Office did a performance audit and “made certain recommendations that led to this policy.”

“Any threat of a lawsuit is backward looking and not applying to current circumstances,” Macias said.

Former Arizona Lottery Director Geoffrey Gonsher, who headed the agency at the time of Carey’s lawsuit, said it seemed to him that Scratchers tickets used to be on sale “for what seemed to be forever,” but in an effort to better the agency, the policy was changed.

Macias said the process of deciding to end a Scratchers game and pulling the game from the shelves is immediate.

Macias added that he believes the Lottery’s policy is “the best practice in the industry.”

“It’s almost like an expiration date on a package of food. After a certain time, it either doesn’t taste very good, or you’ve got new product with new packaging,” he said.

Terrence Freeman, who was buying Scratchers tickets from an Arizona Lottery kiosk at Christown Spectrum Mall in Phoenix, said he would be unhappy if he knew he had just bought a Scratchers ticket without any possibility of winning the $10,000 grand prize he was taking his chances on.

“I’d be upset, to be honest with you,” Freeman said. “It’d be misleading. That’s (the grand prize) what I’m paying for.”

Matt Willis, who was buying Scratchers tickets at the same location, said that although he was interested in the grand prize, he was also hoping to win any of the smaller prizes in the game.

“I’m playing for it all, but the grand prize is the bait,” he said.

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