S.C. lottery: SLED probing accounting discrepancy

State police are investigating after accounting problems were found at the South Carolina Education Lottery, officials said Thursday.

Lottery executive director Paula Harper Bethea said that one person had been fired as a result of the discrepancy in the lottery’s administrative accounts. According to Bethea, internal auditors told her about the problem Oct. 1, and, after getting more information, she called the State Law Enforcement Division a few days later.

“It was not something that lingered,” Bethea said. “The moment it came to my attention, I called the proper authorities.”

Citing an ongoing investigation, Bethea would not say how much money was missing. But she did stress that the discrepancies were in administrative accounts and didn’t affect lottery players, prize money or the retailers who sell tickets around the state.

“Our gaming system is totally separate,” she said.

The lottery employs 91 people in Columbia and has several dozen marketing sales representatives throughout the state, Bethea said.

SLED spokesman Thom Berry confirmed the agency was investigating but did not release further details. No arrests have been announced.

South Carolina’s lottery games started in 2002. According to a Legislative Audit Council report released in 2010, the lottery didn’t follow procedures in a contract to put security features on lottery tickets and or provide enough information about who is playing the games or their chances of winning.

The lottery had added bar codes to scratch-off tickets as a security feature and to let players check to see if they won. But the bar codes were added at a cost of about $398,000 without going through the proper channels in state government, the report said.

Bethea said that was caused by a miscommunication and quickly addressed by staff when discovered. State law requires management audits of the lottery every three years.