Lottery Ticket

CA Lottery Laws

Lottery playing is supposed to be fun, but the fun can sometimes come to an end.

When California lottery laws aren’t followed, it can even lead to criminal charges, jail time, and a need for bail bonds. Most violations of these lottery laws involve scams and fraud, but retailers can also run afoul of the law.

The following are the most important laws governing lotteries in California.

Legal Age to Participate

California state law prohibits sales to minors. Only adults who are at least 18 years old can purchase a lottery ticket, including scratch-off tickets.

In one major case in 2017, a California man sent his 16-year-old son into a convenience store to cash in $330 in winning lottery tickets and purchase five new $20 scratch-off tickets. One of the new tickets was a winner for $5 million. When the man submitted paperwork to redeem his prize, he was informed by the California Lottery Commission that his claim was denied as his underage son bought the ticket but was not legally allowed to play a lottery. This man sued the lottery commission and the store, which he claims did not ask for identification from his son or state that an adult needed to be present.

Counterfeit and Altered Tickets

Tampering with a lottery ticket can have serious consequences. Lottery ticket fraud can be punished under several California laws. In the case of a ticket (or prize) valued at more than $950, the crime is charged as grand theft. If charged as a felony, the crime can be punished by 16 months to 3 years in prison. Forgery may also be involved in lottery ticket fraud. Under California law, forgery includes more than the fraudulent use of a signature; it is also charged when someone creates, changes, or presents as genuine a false document related to money, finances, or property with the intent to commit fraud. This includes counterfeit lottery tickets. Felony forgery can be punished with up to 3 years in prison.

In one well-known case, a liquor store clerk in California rigged the system with a technique called “pinning” the tickets. This involved scratching off a portion of each lottery ticket to reveal a code the lottery computer scans to verify if a ticket has won. When tickets were winners, the clerk redeemed them. The rest were sold to customers. The clerk was accused of redeeming $50,000 in winning tickets and selling about $100,000 bad tickets to customers. In addition to felony grand theft and forgery, he was also charged with computer access fraud for illegally using the lottery system to verify which tickets were winners. He also faced an aggravated white-collar crime enhancement.

Public Disclosure of Winner’s Name

Under the California Public Records Act, the name of the lottery winner and the location and name of the retailer who sold the ticket are considered public records and disclosed to the public. The Lottery Commission does not disclose any personal information, including the winner’s address, employer, or phone number. Only five states — Ohio, North Dakota, Maryland, Kansas, and Delaware — do not require that the name and city of residence of a lottery winner be made public record.

How Lottery Revenue Is Used

States use lottery revenue to boost strained budgets with cash and fund teacher retirement funds, education, and more. California has strict regulations on how the revenue from the state’s lottery must be used. The purpose of the state lottery is to increase revenue for the state, usually for a specific need, without raising taxes for citizens.

Under California law, no more than 13% of revenue can be used for lottery expenses, including security and investigation. At least half of the revenue is earmarked for prizes. The remaining revenue is used to benefit public education. This money is held in the State Lottery Fund and gets transferred to the California State Lottery Education Fund quarterly.

The California Lottery brings in billions for public schools. In one recent year, California schools received $1.3 billion from lottery sales. Each school receives about $135 per student from lottery sales, although schools pass out the money in different ways. There are limits to how the revenue can be used for education, however. Most of the money can be used for any purpose, such as paying teacher salaries. The rest of the money is restricted and can only be used to buy educational classroom materials, not to fund research, build schools, or buy property.

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