The Wyoming Lottery Corporation can move forward to stop a Cheyenne man’s criticism of its problem gambling oversights. District Judge Thomas Campbell’s ruling last week was in response to Edward Atchison’s request to dismiss what many have referred to as a “SLAPP” suit (strategic lawsuit against public participation) which is a legal tactic sometimes employed to discourage public criticism. Lottery lawyers denied in March that the proceedings were such an action.
The lottery corporation filed their suit this spring contending that Atchison was threatening the existence of the state’s lottery by speaking out to national lottery groups, local newspapers, and others in regard to his perception that the lottery needs to do more to address problem gambling. The state is asking the judge to direct Atchison not to interfere with its business relationships.
The basis of the corporation’s suit is that in order to participate in the sales of national lottery games such as Mega Millions and Powerball, the Wyoming Lottery must be in good standing with the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries and the Multi-State Lottery Association. The lottery contends that Atchison’s actions threaten that standing.
The judge set a hearing for November 30th wherein he will hear a request from the lottery to amend its lawsuit but told lawyers they would need to provide more details.
Cheyenne lawyer Tim Kingston said of last weeks ruling, “What’s important is the judge has said he’s going to require the Wyoming Lottery Corporation to flesh out what their claims are, and to provide specific facts of allegedly defamatory statements made by Mr. Atchison, as well as fleshing out the facts of how they were damaged,” Kingston said.
This means that the lottery corporation will have to show which business relationships or contracts have been compromised by Atchison expressing his opinion. “We’ve believed that they don’t have any facts that support their claims,” Kingston said. “Now they’re going to have to put up or shut up.”
Kingston says it is clear that the lottery corporation is a state entity, “For a state entity to claim that it’s been defamed by a citizen who has First Amendment rights, I think is an outrageous thing and a very chilling thing.”