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Gambling Foe Blogs About Lottery, Files FOI Request, Gets Visit From Police

June 24, 2011|By Rick Green

Adam Osmond thinks that the Connecticut Lottery Corp. is out to silence him.

A former lottery sales agent who was convicted last year after printing hundreds of thousands of tickets for his own use and not paying for them, Osmond is also a problem gambler eager to talk about the dark side of a business that promises anyone can "win for life."

Recently, after Osmond sought lottery data through a Freedom of Information Act request, state police officers showed up at his home, called his workplace and eventually interviewed him at a Starbucks in Farmington.

"They were suspicious about why I was collecting data,'' said Osmond, an accountant skilled at building financial databases. "They said what is your intention of filing a Freedom of Information request. They asked me if I was going to attend the next board of directors meeting. I was intimidated not to attend."

That's not how the lottery sees it. Anne Noble, the lottery's president and CEO, told me that she called the police after Osmond made a post on his ctlotterywatch.org blog that her employees perceived as threatening.

"He had a blog posting in early May which specifically posted the date of our June board meeting," Noble said. "Whenever anything comes to my attention that could affect the welfare and safety of my employees, I take appropriate steps."

Noble declined to be more specific about the blog post on Osmond's problem-gambling website. Osmond denied that there was ever any threat on the blog, and when I looked at the site, I didn't see anything particularly menacing.

I can understand why the lottery might be nervous about a man who appears overly interested in its operations. The memory of a deranged employee's rampage in 1998 at lottery headquarters that left five dead remains fresh.

But no one — including the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, where he is a trusted volunteer — has found Osmond to be a threat. He is, however, looking for public information not flattering to the lottery, such as his efforts to show that lottery sales agents might also have gambling problems.

After the police inquiries last month, Osmond says he was let go from his temporary job. Previously, after his larceny arrest, he lost his job as an accountant with the state Department of Children and Families.

Osmond, who has spent years making large FOI requests for lottery data, is prohibited from seeking information about his specific case under his agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanor larceny charges. Osmond said he is not looking for anything about his case, but about how the lottery operates in general.

Police officers told him that the lottery had complained to them about his requests for information, he said. "There's no problem," Osmond said officers told him, "but we want to talk to you about your FOI requests and your website.''

"It is mindboggling," Osmond said. "This is public information. I know I am banned from looking at my case.''

On his website and in testimony before the state legislature, Osmond has taken aim at everything from the lottery's alleged targeting of low-income and minority customers to bonuses handed out to lottery employees and the more recent legislative proposal to add the gambling game keno. He has often criticized the lottery for spending too little on problem gambling and for what he claims is the agency's increasingly unprofitable balance sheet.

Osmond said he is especially concerned about the more serious problem of gambling-addicted sales agents. Before his conviction, Osmond questioned why no other sales agent besides him had faced prosecution for debts owed to the lottery corporation — despite delinquent accounts that he says run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. He says the lottery knew for years that his gambling was a problem.

"I know they target sales to minorities,'' Osmond said. "The lottery agents are their best customers. Most of their sales come in the low-income ZIP codes. ''

Understandably, the lottery has long denied these sorts of allegations. I've written for years about how lotteries market their product to the poor, vulnerable and less educated (how do you think scratch tickets make so much money?). But Osmond's case raises larger, more sinister questions.

Instead of calling the cops, the lottery ought to leave Adam Osmond alone — and comply with his Freedom of Information requests.

Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant




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