Feb. 27, 2003 – Resistance by the governor and the attorney general to releasing the financial reports of the V.I. Lottery Office places the territory in a uniquely secretive position compared with every other public lottery under the U.S. flag.
On Monday, the administration refused a request by the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, to have a member of the 25th Legislature's post audit staff examine the lottery records in connection with an audit of V.I. Lottery operations. (See "Senate Lottery Audit Hits Administration Wall".)
Discussions with mainland lottery officials and a review of the Web site of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries indicate that every state lottery publishes annual financial data. According to David Gale, association executive director, all state lotteries "are required by their legislatures to report their finances."
The association includes Canadian and Mexican lotteries, as well as those in the various states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.
A review of the lotteries association Web site finds a listing for Fiscal Years 2001 and 2002 of all the state lotteries then in existence, as well as those of D.C. and Puerto Rico. For each year, it shows their sales, profits and sales per capita.
The only V.I. data on the Web site are for Fiscal Year 1999, the last time the V.I. government submitted a report to the association. For that year, the Virgin Islands reported total sales of $19.3 million. But unlike the reports of other lotteries, the one for the territory gave no breakout for prizes, expenses and profit.
At the Web site of a trade paper for the industry, La Fleur's Lottery, there is a multi-state financial table indicating that typically 50 percent of lottery sales went for prizes, about 35 percent were profits to the states, and the remaining 15 percent went for expenses. (There are no V.I. data in this table.)
The 50:35:15 ratios for the disbursement of revenues do not vary with the size of the states, so they might be expected to hold true for the Virgin Islands as well. But they apparently did not do so when the Interior Department's Inspector General last looked at the books.
In Fiscal Years 1998 and 1999, according to the Inspector General's report No. 01-I-290, the V.I. Lottery took in $27,793,400 and spent $28,182,366, resulting in a net loss of $388,966.
According to an earlier interview with the lotteries association's Gale, no mainland lottery has ever lost money.
Recently the territory joined the multi-jurisdiction Powerball program, which gives gamblers a chance to bet on large prizes generated by ticket sales in many states. At the time, it was apparent that the V.I. General Fund's share of sales, about 2.6 percent, was considerably below the share earned by other jurisdictions. The average for the other places was reported at 31 percent. (See "V.I. Powerball percentage far below U.S. average".)
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