State criticizes California Lottery scratchers giveaway on 'Ellen' show

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: TV show host Ellen Degeneres appears at "The Ellen Degeneres Show" Season 13 Bi-Coastal Premiere at Rockefeller Center on September 8, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

The California Lottery did not properly handle a promotion in which 30,000 Scratchers tickets were given to the audience of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," the state controller said in a report on a whistleblower complaint that it was a misuse of funds and that some of the 425 packets of tickets were not properly accounted for.

Controller Betty T. Yee’s report Tuesday found the Lottery did not maintain adequate controls over the promotion’s approval process, agreement negotiations, security of tickets and additional costs, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Lottery officials countered that the promotion was allowed by law, fully reviewed and that procedures were followed in the December 2019 giveaway.

Each audience member was given a $500 bundle of 72 Scratchers. The total face value of the tickets was $212,500, but Yee’s office put the value at $74,000 less.

When the issue arose more than a year ago, critics noted that a YouTube personality had said a friend connected to the show gave her a $500 packet of Scratchers.

The controller’s report said 35 gift boxes containing lottery tickets were retrieved from the Warner Bros. Studios lot eight months after the show was taped.

Lottery officials said no gift boxes went to unintended parties and tickets were handled securely.