Attorney General: Thomas Rotunda, Division of Special Revenue, 2000-022 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

July 26, 2000

Thomas Rotunda
Executive Director
Division of Special Revenue
555 Russell Road
Newington, CT 06111

Dear Mr. Rotunda:

This is in response to your request for an expedited opinion on the proposal of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation (CLC) to participate in a new multi-state lottery game which, in part, lets players appear on a televised game show to compete and win. For the following reasons, we believe that participation in the game is authorized by existing legislation and, subject to your approval of the procedures, is consistent with Connecticut law and past practices of your agency.

The CLC is a quasi-public corporation authorized to introduce new lottery games, subject to regulatory oversight by the Division of Special Revenue (DOSR). Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-806(4). It is authorized to enter into lottery games with other states. Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-806(7). It currently operates several on-line lottery games where players pick numbers, and receive a ticket from a lottery agent at a computer terminal, and then the winner is selected in a drawing. The multi-state version of this game is Powerball. The CLC also runs lottery games in the form of instant tickets, where players buy a ticket from a lottery agent and rub off a cover which reveals objects which, if matched, win a prize.

The proposed new game, as it has been described to us, is a multi-state instant ticket game. Among the prizes, one person from each state will be picked to appear in a game show, televised weekly from California. The show contestants play games of chance on the air to win. The first show is scheduled to air in October, 2000.

The DOSR is required to review and approve the procedures for this game prior to implementation. Reg. Sec. 12-568a-2(b). Approvability of the procedures is contingent on the determination of whether this game is a "lottery".

As we have often observed in the past, the specific elements of the term "lottery" are nowhere defined in the general statutes. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-801(a)(2). However, the CLC is authorized to "introduce new lottery games, modify existing lottery games, [and] utilize existing and new technologies . . . ." Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-806(b)(4).

In light of this lack of specific definition, this office has consistently observed, in prior opinions dealing with the subject, and relying upon clearly established judicial precedent, that the term "lottery" must be accorded its common and ordinary meaning. See Ziperstein v. Tax Commissioner, 178 Conn. 493, 500, 423 A.2d 129 (1979); Jones v. Civil Service Commission, 175 Conn. 504, 509, 400 A.2d 721 (1978); Carlson v. Kozlowski, 172 Conn. 263, 266, 374 A.2d 207 (1977). We have thus premised our prior holdings upon a firm understanding that the term lottery, as used in the Connecticut General Statutes, is employed strictly in its traditional sense:

However, judicial pronouncements are virtually unanimous, and hence there appears to be little dispute, that certain basic elements must be present in order to conform to the traditional notion of the term "lottery". Those basic elements are: prize, consideration and chance. State v. Bull Investment Group, Inc., 32 Conn. Supp. 279, 351 A.2d 879 (1974); National Football League v. Governor of Delaware, 435 F. Supp. 1372, 195 U.S.P.Q. 803 (1977). A lottery, in the traditional sense, implies an almost total absence of a participant’s "skill" as having any determining influence upon the ultimate chance of that participant’s success.

92 Conn. Op. Atty. Gen. (1/24/92) at 2 (Letter to Executive Director Louziotis); 83 Conn. Op. Atty. Gen. (9/21/83) (Letter to Executive Director Oppenheimer). See also, 86 Conn. Op. Atty. Gen. 24 (1986); 83 Conn. Op. Atty. Gen. (12/2/83). In other words, as contemplated by Connecticut statutes, a "lottery" is a game in which participants purchase “tickets” which give them an opportunity to win a prize based solely upon random chance. 83 Conn. Op. Atty. Gen. (12/2/83) (citations omitted).

The game show lottery, as described in the materials which you have supplied, satisfies this criteria. Players participate by the purchase of a ticket from an agent. One of the prizes is a chance to appear on a televised game show. Players chosen to participate in the game show are selected in a drawing. Their potential to win is based on playing games of random chance, not skill. At home participants, similarly chosen by drawing, also have a chance to win based on the winnings of the on-air contestant. Since this process is based solely upon random chance, it satisfies the essential element of a lottery. 1

This game show is similar in kind to game shows broadcast by the State when it operated the Lottery prior to the creation of the CLC in 1996. Those shows, called the "Money Tree" and "Rainbow Jackpot" shows, were broadcast between 1976 and 1985, during the same time period when this Office issued the above cited opinions on the topic. Although not conclusive, this longstanding agency interpretation and practice is entitled to appropriate weight. Anderson v. Ludgin, 175 Conn. 545, 555, 400 A.2d 712 (1978). We have found nothing in the authorizing statutes or legislative history that would preclude the televised component of this lottery.

As you know, reservation and criticism have been expressed--including some by members of the Legislature--about the merits and policy issues involved in such a new game. This opinion does not address them, since I have no authority over the policy determinations made by either the legislature or your agency regarding the scope or forms of lottery offerings. As a public official, as well as a citizen and parent, I urge you to carefully consider the impact that increasing television promotion of lotteries will have on minors and problem gamblers. Recent evidence suggests strongly and credibly that problems in both groups may be growing. I am hopeful that you will be sensitive to such concerns, especially in light of your significant expertise and experience.

Of course, final approval of this game is subject to your review and approval of the procedures. Reg. Sec. 12-568a-2(b). The game may not be implemented unless and until you approve those procedures.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Robert F. Vacchelli
Assistant Attorney General

RB/rfv


1The authorization for this game was earlier reviewed and approved by counsel for the CLC. See Opinion of Carmody & Torrance, attached.


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