Investigation: Alaska's Half-Million Lottery
Concerns are being raised about the man who is running the lotto itself, Abe Spicola. In particular, issues are being raised about his past.
Original article posted March 22, 2010
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTVA-CBS 11 News) The half-million dollar lottery to benefit Standing Together Against Rape (STAR) is in its second year.
The winning ticket was supposed to be drawn January 1, 2010, but the drawing date has been pushed back twice.
That alone has raised concerns, and now more questions are being raised about how the $500,000 lottery is being managed.
The first time the $500,000 Lotto was held to raise money for STAR, a registered sex offender won.
This time around, concerns are being raised about the man who is running the lotto itself, Abe Spicola. In particular, issues are being raised about his past.
Now, STAR has concerns that past could negatively affect the non-profit.
Last year's half million dollar lottery put on by Lucky Times Lotto brought STAR $11,000.
But this year's half-million dollar drawing has been delayed multiple times.
"We didn't sell enough tickets to meet the jackpot payout, plus we also want to raise $50,000 for STAR this year so they could hire one sexual abuse educator for the State of Alaska to go around and educate everyone about the sexual abuse problem here in Alaska," says Lucky Times owner Abe Spicola, "So that's our goal."
Spicola says the economy is to blame for not selling enough tickets.
While some are angry the drawing has not taken place, State investigators with the Dept. of Revenue Tax Division say the delay is completely within the law.
"In this particular case, the first tickets were sold in 2009 meaning that the award has to be made and the drawing has to be done before December 31st of 2010," explains Chief of Investigations Scott Stair.
While it is legal for Spicola to push the drawing date back, some of his other actions are not legal.
<p> Court documents spanning the last 12 years detail two assaults, multiple restraining orders and two domestic violence charges against Abe Spicola.
When the Eye Team asked Spicola about those charges, he became defensive. "I have had problems- all my charges, any charges that have ever been brought up against me have always been dropped," he said. "I have always been cleared of all my charges so for that to even be brought up is very inappropriate."
But Spicola has not been cleared of all of them.
While some charges including the two assaults at Chilkoot Charlie's Bar have been dropped, Spicola pled no contest to domestic violence assault in 2003.
"STAR has known about me and my problems in my past, whatever, and they stand behind me 100 percent," Spicola says.
But STAR's executive director tells the Eye Team she had no idea about his past. "The first time I heard about this was last week when we received a call from Abe. That's the first time I heard about it," says Nancy Haag.
That phone call was made after our interview.
Haag says the revelation Spicola has been involved in what STAR stands against is "disappointing and disheartening."
"I think it is important to realize that it illustrates the nature of the problem we have in Alaska," she says. "We appreciate that he's trying to work with STAR in trying to raise money for our education mission, but it is disappointing."
STAR says if they would have know about Spicola's past they would have asked a lot more questions, and might not have allowed him to work on their behalf.
Past charges aside, how Spicola is handling his half-million dollar lottery is raising the eyebrows of state officials.
"We have a package that we are reviewing right now to address the what we call large raffles," says Investigator Stair. "It's something we are looking at right now, so I wouldn't be surprised in the near future if there were some things to address the concerns."
When asked if he could elaborate on what specifically State officials want to change, Stair said he was not at liberty to say.
Abe Spicola is no stranger to Alaska gaming laws; in fact, he worked for the state department in charge of monitoring and investigating the gaming industry for years.
Now, the state may be investigating him.
"I can't comment on whether or not there have been any past or present investigations regarding Mr. Spicola or Lucky Times Pull Tabs," says Stair.
Any complaints made against Abe Spicola or his business by non-profits he used to raise money for are confidential, unless investigators find Spicola did something wrong.
So far that has not happened.
"The people that are angry, I say I'm sorry," says Spicola. "I totally understand your frustration, but hopefully you stick by us"
The half-million dollar lottery drawing is set to take place March 31, 2010.
If Lucky Times Lotto does not make enough money by then, the drawing could be pushed back again.