The California Lottery thought gifting the audience of Ellen DeGeneres’s daytime talk show $212,500 worth of scratcher tickets was a good way to drum up publicity, but now state lawmakers are investigating whether it was a misuse of funds.
A report by The Los Angeles Times Thursday said that State Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) has asked an auditor to look into the California State Lottery’s giveaway after a whistleblower complaint raised concerns about “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” promotion.
In early December, the lottery gifted the show 425 packets that each included 72 scratchers tickets with a face value of $500 per packet for an audience giveaway.
The giveaway was part of DeGeneres’ “12 Days of Giveaways” holiday promotion, during which she was joined by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel to reveal the gifts. In addition to the scratchers, DeGeneres and Kimmel gave the audience a $500 Visa gift card, $500 in beauty products, $300 in new clothes and a trip to a beach resort.
In 1984, California voters approved the lottery with the stipulation that 34% of sales revenue would go toward education. The whistleblower complaint was filed by employees at the California State Lottery. Chang said the lottery should have been reimbursed by “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” for the tickets.
“This concerns me because, bottom line, the mission of the California Lottery is to provide supplemental funding to California public schools,” Chang said. “I want to know how this contribution affects supplemental funding to California public schools. Does it help? I don’t think so.”
The complaint comes just a week before an auditor is set to release a report into the lottery. Chang requested the audit last year after the state lottery was accused of wasteful spending, improper gifts and nepotism.