Nov 28, 2005, 6:54 am
For a guy prohibited from participating in the Oklahoma lottery, Nels Bentson sure has a bunch of tickets that say otherwise.
The shipments keep coming, along with calls from lottery representatives asking how his sales are going.
Confused? So is Bentson.
Bentson owns 11 Cashland payday loan stores throughout Oklahoma.
He spent $1,045 last summer on application fees to become a lottery retailer and says he invested an extra $3,400 to send employees to the mandatory training sessions.
On Oct. 11, the day before scratch-off tickets went on sale, the Oklahoma Lottery Commission banned businesses like Bentson's from selling tickets.
Its oversight board also prohibited sales in pawn shops and check-cashing businesses, saying the commission didn't want to be seen as preying on the poor.
Though he doesn't agree with that reasoning, Bentson said he accepts the decision.
What he doesn't understand is why his stores received certificates three days later authorizing them as official lottery retailers. Or why the lottery's Web site still lists his stores as authorized ticket locations. Or why lottery tickets are still showing up at his stores.
In the past two weeks, the commission sent boxes of holiday-themed scratch-off tickets to Cashland locations in Edmond, Tulsa and Midwest City.
Each contained $5,400 in tickets and a letter signed by the commission's executive director, Jim Scroggins.
"I might just pass them out to people on the street," Bentson joked.
Actually, the tickets are worthless unless validated by the Lottery Commission.
Based on his experience so far, he thinks the commission staff might just validate his stash by mistake.
Scroggins said an assistant attorney general had advised him not to comment on the situation because Bentson has threatened a lawsuit.
Bentson recently sent the commission a letter demanding $4,475 for his application fees and for wages and mileage he paid for his store managers to attend lottery training.
He remembers the oversight board's chairman saying in October that application fees for stores like Bentson's would receive an immediate refund. Bentson is still waiting.
As of Nov. 16, lottery sales had raised more than $11 million for public education funding. Bentson views stores like his as the perfect spot for sales because of the volume of financial transactions they handle each day with few problems.
But after what he's seen the last six weeks, "I want no part of them."
"And this is what we're trusting to pay for the education of our children?" Bentson asked.