California Lottery Under Fire for Giving Away Over $200K in Scratchers on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’

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Comedian Ellen DeGeneres drew wild cheers from the studio audience of her television talk show in December when she announced each person in attendance would receive a $500 bundle of Scratchers tickets from the California State Lottery.

Lottery officials saw it as a publicity boon, but a whistleblower complaint filed by some lottery employees argues the agency’s giveaway of the tickets — which have a combined face value of $212,500 — should be investigated as a “misuse of funds,” according to documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The controversy comes just weeks before a state audit is scheduled to be released on lottery finances in response to a string of recent scandals that included allegations of wasteful spending, improper gifts and nepotism. State Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) requested the audit last year to determine whether money is going as promised to public schools. California voters approved the lottery in 1984 with an understanding that 34% of sales revenue would go toward education, though the Legislature in 2010 relaxed that requirement to give managers discretion to follow “best practices.”

Chang is concerned that the amount of money reserved for schools is not growing at the same rate as lottery revenue. She said the auditor should also look at the giveaway of Scratchers on the Dec. 3 episode of the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

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