Imploring the City Council not to "break what is not broken," a member of the D.C. Lottery Board argued last night that a proposal to restructure the board and limit its policy-making ability would damage the D.C. Lottery's "phenomenal success story."
Speaking for the five-member lottery board, Jerry S. Cooper told council members that any change in the operation of the lottery, which has sold about 65 million tickets and netted the District $18 million in the past year, "would both harm the lottery's ability to operate as a successful business and fail to correct the operational problems of the board."
Cooper made his statement at a public hearing convened at the request of council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), who has introduced a bill that would bring the board's day-to-day operations more directly under the control of Mayor Marion Barry and the council.
The bill would expand the board to seven members, but deprive the panel of much of its current authority.
The proposal would make the board chairman a salaried chief operating officer who reports to the mayor, and the chairman, not the full board, would have responsibility for hiring an administrative officer.
The quasi-independent board has been criticized by Barry and members of the City Council over the manner in which it has awarded major contracts to run the games, the size of the board's professional staff and the administrative cost of running the games.
In addition, some aspects of lottery operations have sparked three separate investigations: the FBI is investigating allegations of bribery and conflict of interest in connection with the award of some lottery contracts; the D.C. Inspector General's office is looking into the handling of $2.2 million in advertising funds; and the District Office of Campaign Finance is trying to determine whether a former lottery employe violated conflict-of-interest laws by accepting a job with a company that does business with the lottery.
Cooper, whose term on the lottery board has officially expired and is serving only until his replacement is confirmed by the City Council, said last night that the D.C. games "are barely completing their first full year of operations," and that any change in the law would disrupt the computer-based Daily Numbers game that began in August and has attracted heavy betting.
In an hour-long and occasionally acrimonious exchange with Cooper, Winter--a longtime opponent of legalized gambling--said that the independence of the D.C. lottery board is "unique" among other lottery operations in the country. She suggested that that autonomy contributes "to some cracks" in the operation.
Outside the council chambers, Cooper denied published reports that he is a subject of the FBI investigation.
"No one has questioned me and I am aware of no investigations," Cooper said. He said that while he is a personal friend of most of "the principals in those companies that bid" on the right to operate the games, "I think I can be objective."