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Thieves uncover hole in Okla. lottery planning

Nov 1, 2005, 11:54 am

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Oklahoma Lottery

A flaw in security allowed thieves to steal lottery tickets from an Oklahoma store and redeem them before lottery officials could deactivate the ticket identification codes.

The Oklahoma Lottery Commission says it will soon hire "security people" working beyond the regular hours of the commission office to prevent stolen lottery tickets from being cashed.

Last Tuesday thieves robbed a Norman convenience store of its supply of tickets about 5 a.m.. The store owner said she tried to call the commission right away so it could deactivate the tickets, but she said no one was answering the phone.

Lottery Director James Scroggins acknowledged the office wasn't staffed at night and that "we do need a mechanism to notify Scientific Games (the state's provider of lottery games) immediately."

Gov. Brad Henry promised Oklahomans when he proposed the lottery that it would be done properly.

The lottery commission's first misstep was when they failed to restrict lottery ticket sales from pawn shops and payday check cashers. The commission board corrected that after the lottery began Oct. 12.

Now the security hole brings another error to light, as the lottery does not have sufficient security people in place to prevent stolen tickets from being cashed, something that most, if not all, state lotteries put in place before the lottery begins ticket sales.

The thieves would have been limited in the amount they could have collected from the stolen tickets because prizes of more than $600 require collection from the commission office.  Also, a lottery ticket vendor may have been suspicious of someone trying to redeem many tickets at once.

The thieves probably did not profit a great deal from the stolen tickets, and they were deactivated once the commission office was opened and notified.

The oversight or delay raises issues as to the overall planning of the lottery, as well as the budgetary planning process that was employed.

Scroggins, who came to Oklahoma after 13 years with the Missouri lottery, received a $25,000 bonus for getting the instant lottery ticket sales going by October.

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