Everyone may have a chance at being a winner at the Pennsylvania Lottery, but on Wednesday the state’s elected fiscal watchdog said he wants to make sure everyone is playing by the same rules.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he’s launching an audit of the Lottery and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. The purpose: to review frequent winners and to determine whether the Lottery is doing enough to prevent fraud by those winners.
“As Auditor General, I am paid not to believe in coincidences,” DePasquale, a Democrat and a 2020 candidate for Congress, said during a Capitol news conference. .
Citing a multi-state media probe of frequent lottery winners, DePasquale said his concerns are justified.
“When this issue first surfaced several years ago, I warned that I would be monitoring the situation,” DePasquale said. “Some lotteries have taken major steps to crack down on suspected fraudulent claims and I want to ensure that the Pennsylvania Lottery is doing everything possible to prevent and stop any fraud.”
DePasquale said state lawmakers made policy changes after the frequent lottery winner story broke, but he said he also believes the rise of online games provides more, new opportunities for fraud.
“Could a scheme like this be happening in Pennsylvania?” DePasquale asked. “We don’t know and that is part of what we’re going to be trying to find out.”
DePasquale said he spoke with Lottery officials around the same time the story was making national headlines. He said those officials reassured him that the agency was doing everything it could to prevent something similar from happening.
That isn’t enough, DePasquale said.
“The Lottery should be able to say with certainty that no one is committing tax fraud,” he said.
Pennsylvanians bought $4.5 billion in tickets in fiscal 2018-19 and claimed more than $2.9 billion in prizes.
With the Lottery benefiting seniors in the Commonwealth, DePasquale emphasized the need for transparency.
“Seniors, lottery players and the general public deserve to know if every dollar of those prizes was claimed in accordance with the law,” he said.
The Auditor General also laid out another objective of the audit – a close examination of the Department’s sexual harassment policy and training requirements.
DePasquale said this is to make sure sexual harassment policies are “effective and being followed.”
In 2016, the Department shelled out $900,000 for a sexual harassment lawsuit against a former regional manager – something DePasquale said he doesn’t want to see happen again.
“I want every agency of state government to learn from the Department of Revenue’s example,” DePasquale said. “Sexual harassment must be stopped and cannot be tolerated and that starts with a strict policy against it and requiring that all employees undergo training.”