Lottery Director Bishop Woosley went on record this week saying in the future, no lottery employee will be able to steal lottery tickets and collect nearly half-a-million dollars like the Lottery’s former deputy security director did.

I wonder if he realizes that’s a promise he cannot keep.

Regardless of the number of safeguards, no employer—whether it’s the Lottery, a bank, a construction company, or a veterinary clinic—can actually promise employees will never be able to steal. You can assure the public with reasonable certainty that those who steal will be caught, but you can’t even guarantee that. After all, there apparently was not even an inkling of suspicion that something was amiss at the Arkansas Lottery until a store owner in Jonesboro called in last October to report some suspicious lottery tickets being cashed in at his store.

The Arkansas Lottery may learn from this instance, and they make a few internal changes as to how lottery tickets are handled (giving one person as much unilateral access to lottery tickets as they did seems to defy conventional wisdom). The truth is, however, the fox is still watching the henhouse at the Arkansas Lottery. Here’s how:

  • The Legislative Oversight Committee has extremely little power in regards to actually holding the Arkansas Lottery Commission accountable for its actions. By and large, it hears testimony from lottery officials about what’s happening down at the Lottery Commission. That’s it.
  • The Lottery Commissioners, who, in theory, are responsible for the Lottery, actually make very few decisions about how the Lottery is managed, deferring to the Director and the Lottery’s other managers on most items. Again, much of what the commissioners see actually is material prepared by lottery officials themselves.
  • The Lottery’s auditor is employed by the Arkansas Lottery. While other states recognize this has the potential to create a conflict of interest, and have wisely chosen to place their lottery inspectors or auditors in a different government office (such as the Attorney General’s), our Lottery’s auditor actually answers to Lottery officials. Think that might have the potential to affect what he “finds” when he conducts an audit?

The Legislative Oversight Committee and the Lottery Commission are largely dependent on Arkansas Lottery officials for their information. People may say, “We should just trust our lottery officials to be forthright and honest with our lawmakers and commissioners.” That’s exactly the kind of attitude that allowed nearly half-a-million dollars to be stolen by one of the very people charged with keeping the Arkansas Lottery secure.

Regardless of what we may be told, no one can actually guarantee money will never be stolen from the Arkansas Lottery again. History tells us criminals have a way of getting around even the best laid security measures. If we really want to mitigate the possibility, however, greater transparency at the Arkansas Lottery would be one way to do so.

Ultimately it’s up to the Arkansas Legislature to fix this problem by designating an independent person or committee who can actually hold the lottery accountable.