- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Lottery Corporation has updated its lawsuit against a Cheyenne man the company accuses of disparaging its operations, but the man’s lawyer says the suit it still improper and fails to give necessary specifics.

The company this week filed a more detailed civil lawsuit in state court in Cheyenne against Edward Atchison, the executive director of a group called the Wyoming Council on Problem Gambling.

The Wyoming Legislature created the company, which started selling lottery tickets last year. Atchison has written letters to the editors of Wyoming newspapers expressing concern that the company hasn’t done enough to address problem gambling.

The company first sued Atchison this spring, saying he has tried to sabotage its relationship with national lottery organizations. The corporation is seeking a court order directing him not to interfere with its business relationships and has asked for punitive damages.

Wyoming District Judge Thomas Campbell of Cheyenne this fall denied Atchison’s request to dismiss the lawsuit. Instead, the judge allowed the corporation to file the amended complaint giving more detail about its claims.

Although the amended lawsuit states that lottery corporation officials have had to incur expenses responding to what the lawsuit characterizes as Atchison’s misstatements, it doesn’t state how much those expenses were or otherwise quantify damages.

While the lawsuit states Atchison was incorrect in saying that the corporation hadn’t spent enough to address problem gambling, the lawsuit didn’t specify how much it actually has spent.

Attempts to reach Cheyenne lawyer Matthew D. Kaufman, who represents the corporation, were unsuccessful on Wednesday. A receptionist at the corporation itself said no one was available to provide information about its spending or other efforts to combat problem gambling.

Cheyenne lawyer Tim Kingston represents Atchison.

“They are a state entity, or quasi-state entity and I don’t think they have the legal basis to be able to bring a defamation or business-disparagement suit against Ed Atchison,” Kingston said Wednesday. “We will be considering our further legal options.”

Kingston said he regards the lawsuit as a SLAPP suit, meaning a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or a legal action designed to scare people so they won’t criticize or oppose an entity.

“This is the lottery trying to throw its weight around to push back against anyone who wants to criticize them,” Kingston said.

In an interview in March, after the lawsuit was filed, Kaufman said the lottery’s action against Atchison is not a “SLAPP suit.”

Kaufman said in March that in order to sell tickets to the multistate Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries, the Wyoming lottery must be in good standing with organizations such as the Multi-State Lottery Association and the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

Kaufman said that Atchison had contacted the national lottery groups and said the Wyoming lottery was not operating according to its statutory mandates. Atchison’s actions threatened the existence of the lottery, and the lottery felt it had to file the lawsuit to protect itself, he said.

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