Originally created 03/05/02

Hodges seeks protections for border state players



RALEIGH, N.C. - South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges urged North Carolina leaders Monday to repeal a law that makes it illegal for residents to hold lottery tickets bought in other states.

In a letter to Gov. Mike Easley, Senate leader Marc Basnight and House Speaker Jim Black, Mr. Hodges said North Carolinians should be allowed to buy lottery tickets in his state "without harassment."

"While I certainly respect your decision not to conduct a lottery of your own, I respectfully request that the North Carolina General Assembly repeal what appears to be an arcane law," Mr. Hodges wrote.

Mr. Hodges' letter follows a couple of highly publicized cases in which people in counties bordering South Carolina were charged with possessing lottery tickets. The charges were brought using a seldom-used 1943 anti-gambling law and came only while they were being cited for other offenses.

South Carolina began selling scratch-off lottery tickets Jan. 7. Since then, North Carolinians have been streaming across the border to buy them.

The pace might pick up after this week when South Carolina kicks off the number-picking games.

A spokesman for Mr. Easley, who has been urging North Carolina lawmakers to pass a lottery since taking office last year, said the bigger issue is whether his state continues to lose lottery proceeds to border states.

"Governor Hodges is protecting his investment, which is exactly what Governor Easley has urged the Legislature to do for two years," said Easley spokesman Fred Hartman. "Governor Hodges knows exactly where his lottery proceeds are coming from, and unfortunately a lot of them are coming from us."

Mr. Black and Mr. Basnight agreed that the law needs to be examined.

"I don't repeal laws personally. I'm sure that will be a part of the debate over lottery in the short session," Mr. Black said.

Mr. Basnight said citations shouldn't be written "for holding a lottery ticket, in my opinion."

Jay Reiff, a spokesman for Mr. Hodges who formerly worked for Mr. Easley and lobbied on behalf of the lottery, said the South Carolina governor was surprised the law was being enforced.

"The governor was aware of the law, but he didn't think that anybody would actually start enforcing it," Mr. Reiff said.

In fact, North Carolina lawmakers considered removing the law from the books in 1989 because of concerns about state residents being cited for buying lottery tickets in Virginia.