Cline: ‘Skins suite seats misused by Lottery staff

State Del. Ben Cline, R-24th District, announced today that he had received confirmation of recent actions by Virginia Lottery employees in which luxury skybox suite seats reserved for winners of the Redskins Legacy game were misused by Lottery staff. Cline also announced that he would be asking for an independent audit of the Virginia Lottery at the next General Assembly session.

“For years, the Virginia Lottery has been playing fast and loose with millions of dollars that should go toward education but instead are spent on layers of administrative bureaucracy and private licensing agreements,” Cline said. “Now we learn that these agreements, one of which includes luxury skybox seats at Washington Redskins games as prizes, are being abused by Lottery employees. Lottery revenues should be going to fund education, not to line the pockets of advertising executives or to provide perks for Lottery employees. Virginia’s school children deserve better.”

The issue regarding the Redskins suite tickets was first raised on the Not Larry Sabato politics blog in September with a report about the use of a luxury suite at the Redskins’ season opener this year by Virginia Lottery officials. Cline wrote to the Lottery to request details about the Redskins Legacy game, and said he was informed in an e-mail response from Lottery Director Paula Otto that one of the prizes was in fact the use of a luxury skybox for a Redskins home game. When questioned in more detail about the use of the luxury skybox, Otto also confirmed that the suite was not occupied during the Redskins home opener by a Redskins Legacy game winner, but instead by Lottery staff.

“At a time when we are being forced to make difficult decisions about funding for education in Virginia, it is disheartening to learn that Lottery revenues intended for our schools are being misused by the staff of the Lottery Department,” Cline said. “I plan to file a budget amendment in the upcoming General Assembly session for a full and independent audit of the Virginia Lottery, and I hope it will receive bipartisan support as we strive to fully fund our public schools in Virginia.”

Virginia Lottery spokesman John Hagerty disputes Cline’s characterization of Otto’s e-mail to Cline. Hagerty said today that Otto informed Cline in her e-mail that the box was indeed used by Lottery staff, but the use was as a staging area for an on-field presentation at halftime of the football game that highlighted the $4.8 billion the Lottery has generated for K-12 public education since 1999.

“We believe that was a logical use of the box, which would otherwise have been empty,” Hagerty said in an e-mail to AugustaFreePress.com.

Scratcher games using licensed properties, such as Redskins Legacy, routinely perform an average of 17 percent better than other games, Hagerty said. Redskins Legacy has generated $14.6 million in sales this year to date, Hagerty said.

“The Lottery is audited each year by the independent Auditor of Public Accounts, as required by statute, as well as by its internal audit department. We would welcome a further audit if the General Assembly deems it appropriate,” Hagerty said.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.

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