Happy Thanksgiving from GGB; Newsletter Returns December 4

Florida Scratch-off Scandal Growing

Some Florida convenience store owners and clerks are mysteriously winning an unusually high number of Florida Lottery scratch-off ticket games. One store owner in Winter Haven won four times in a single day in March—beating odds of 30,000 to one each time. The lottery is investigating potential criminal activity in at least 96 stores.

The Florida Lottery is investigating convenience store owners and clerks who seem to be beating the odds. The investigation has grown from 11 stores in April to 96 today. Florida Lottery officials said of the 10 biggest scratch-off game winners last year, nine have been convenience store owners.

For example, in a single day in March, Winter Park store owner Jamil Hamad won the scratch-off lottery four times in a single day, beating odds of 30,000 to one each time, according to the Florida Lottery. He also won two times in one day in both January and February, all but one at his own convenience store. The winnings totaled about $48,000 Hamad said.

Lottery expert Richard Lustig said, “It’s possible clerks are doing something akin to counting cards. If he sees one particular game coming up with a lot of losers all in a row, when that customer leaves he’ll buy the next couple of tickets in that game because he’s figuring the odds are in his favor.” Lustig also said some clerks are lying to customers. “They’ll say to a person, ‘Yeah you won 10 dollars’, when it was really a $1,000 winning ticket. The clerk puts it in his pocket and cashes in,” Lustig said.

Lottery officials said they are taking aggressive action to stop potential criminal that’s harming the system.

Also in Florida, Sheldon Adelson, Republican contributor and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, recently gave $2.5 million to the Drug Free Florida Committee, a group working to defeat Amendment 2, the ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana that will appear on the November ballot, according to campaign finance reports. Adelson’s donation represents nearly all of the $2.7 million the group has raised so far. Other major donations have come from leading Florida Republicans. Adelson and his physician wife have established an opiate-addiction treatment clinic in Las Vegas known as the Dr. Myriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment and Research.

Adelson has spent millions unsuccessfully lobbying Florida legislators to approve destination casinos. Although polls have consistently shown a majority of voters support it, legislative leaders and other top Florida Republicans oppose the medical marijuana amendment.

Sarah Bascom, a spokeswoman for the Drug Free Florida Committee, said, “We already know that this will be an expensive campaign given proponents of legalization have said they will spend whatever it takes. Unfortunately, by their standards, whatever it takes means getting a loophole-ridden amendment on the ballot and cleverly fooling voters into believing that pot will only be available to those with a ‘debilitating illness,’ when it is written so broadly that it will really mean pot for any purpose if it passes.”

Supporters say there is no such loophole, and note the Florida Supreme Court rejected a similar argument made by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Ben Pollara, campaign manager for the pro-medical marijuana amendment group United for Care, called Adelson an “out of state gambling interest” and one of many individuals who are not “credible people” to argue that “medical marijuana is bad for the people of the state of Florida.” United for Care is backed by trial attorney John Morgan, whose firm employs former Governor Charlie Crist, running against incumbent Governor Rick Scott. Morgan has financed the group with $3.1 million.

In a statement, United for Care wrote: “According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, two million Americans are pathological gamblers, and an additional four to six million would be considered problem gamblers. Gambling often leads to substance abuse, isolation from family and friends, financial strain, outright bankruptcy and sometimes even suicide.” The statement continued, “Sheldon Adelson is widely known for using his massive financial resources to try to crush those fighting for the rights of the little guy. I suppose bankrolling those who oppose the right of patients with debilitating diseases to have access to the medicine they need must come quite naturally to him.”

In Israel, Adelson funded research at the Adelson Center for the Biology of Addictive Diseases at Tel Aviv about how marijuana and its associated chemicals can potentially mitigate brain injuries or reduce the symptoms of degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.