Mumpower seeks switch to numbered balls for lottery picks

Hank Hayes • Mar 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

User confidence in the Tennessee Lottery would return if lawmakers pass legislation requiring the lottery to use numbered balls instead of computer programs in some key games, House GOP Leader Jason Mumpower told a House State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday.

Mumpower presented to the subcommittee an amended bill calling for numbered balls to be used by the lottery when the winners are determined by three, four, five or six numbers.

“Confidence in a system is hard or impossible to restore when you have numbers being drawn by a black box,” the Bristol Republican told lawmakers on the subcommittee. “I have heard my constituents say unequivocally and clearly that their confidence in the system could be restored if they could see the lottery operated through a system where they see the randomly drawn numbered balls to select the winners.”

Mumpower said he plans to return to the subcommittee next week to advance the bill toward a House floor vote.

A recently released comptroller’s audit found that due to a programming error, about $2 million worth of computer-picked Cash 3 and Cash 4 tickets purchased last year in July and August had no chance of winning.

“Tennesseans were robbed of an opportunity to win. ... As a result a great deal of confidence was lost in the lottery as an operation which earns money that we use to provide scholarships to Tennessee students,” Mumpower said. “Sales for those games did decline, and citizens are questioning the operation because of the random number generator.”

Last October, the lottery sought $1.4 million in damages from two lottery vendors involved in the glitch. The lottery’s executives and staff “engaged in good-faith efforts” to ensure the integrity of the lottery games, the audit concluded.

After the programming error was caught and corrected, the lottery executed a compensation plan for players that included increased cash prizes for Cash 3 and Cash 4 games.

Mumpower’s legislation would not affect the lottery’s HotTrax Champions, Million Dollar Madness, scratch-off tickets or Powerball games.

A fiscal impact analysis issued last January before the bill was amended projected a net decrease of about $4 million going toward lottery proceeds earmarked for scholarships and grants.

Mumpower suggested the projections were inflated and deserve more scrutiny.

Lottery officials claimed last December it would have cost them about $4.8 million to renew contracts with six TV stations, including Kingsport’s WKPT-TV, for televised numbered ball drawings of three games.

But the state’s fiscal review office pointed out the lottery has chosen to negotiate exclusively with those TV stations and not solicit competitive bids from other TV stations. As a result, the lottery’s expenses would have increased no more than $2 million if a competitive bid process had been undertaken, the office noted.

Mumpower’s bill hasn’t moved forward yet in the Senate, but it continues to draw attention from lottery players and lawmakers.

“In my 12 years in office, I suppose I can say unequivocally that I have rarely had so much constituent interest or interest from other (General Assembly) members in a piece of legislation that I have carried,” said Mumpower, who also serves on the legislature’s lottery oversight committee.

For more information go to www.legislature.state.tn.us and click on “Legislation.” The bill’s number is HB 2513.

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