The department that oversees the Vermont State Lottery will seek permission to conduct criminal background checks on lottery agents.
Patrick Delaney, Liquor and Lottery Department commissioner, and his deputy, Gary Kessler, outlined to lawmakers on Thursday some of the changes they are making to the lottery system in the wake of a VTDigger investigation last year.
The investigation, published in April, found that lottery agents and store employees were winning Vermont Lottery games at rates statisticians found highly suspicious. The then-executive director of the Lottery, Daniel Rachek, disputed VTDigger’s findings, but the governor and Legislature asked for investigations.
Rachek resigned in November after a year on the job. On Thursday, Delaney told lawmakers on the Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee that while a report by Rachek had disputed VTDigger’s findings, officials still planned to make some changes to agent contracts “that disallow a couple of different behaviors that appear to be potential areas of vulnerability.”
The state’s liquor and lottery board has agreed to a plan that will prevent agents from playing the lottery or collecting their winnings while at work, Delaney said. Delaney and Kessler would also like to prohibit a practice known as discounting, where a winner assigns the ticket and the winnings to another person for a fee.
The Vermont Lottery will also seek permission to do better background checks on its agents, said Kessler. That would require approval from the Legislature.
“We want to be able to make sure people who are getting licenses, whether it’s to sell liquor or lottery tickets, don’t have a criminal history that would be problematic,” Kessler said after the hearing. “The education department has access to something like this for teacher licensure.”
Delaney told the committee that while he didn’t agree with any of the findings in the VTDigger report, “obviously perception is reality. These types of allegations, although they were essentially misstated, still created a question regarding the integrity of the lottery.”
VTDigger is underwritten by:
Winning anomalies happen in other states, Delaney said.
“It’s really an issue that has been dealt with from a number of different lottery operations in the country,” he said.
Sen. Alison Clarkson, D-Windsor, asked Delaney if the lottery would consider excluding its agents from playing altogether.
“Every time we hear anything where there is a reward or benefit, no employee from that institution is allowed to even participate,” she said.
Delaney said that move isn’t being considered.
“There are only two states in the U.S. that completely disallow agents from participating in the games,” he said. “From our perspective our 620 agents are our business partners. We feel we have a vested interest in maintaining a productive, positive relationship with them.”
The lottery generates roughly $25 million a year in profits, all of which are designated for the state education fund.
Want to stay on top of the latest business news? Sign up here to get a weekly email on all of VTDigger's reporting on local companies and economic trends. And check out our new Business section here.