Resisting the lottery’s temptation

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 13, 2005

Many North Carolinians watch with eager or concerned eyes as the North Carolina Senate prepares to vote on a lottery.

Even though the North Carolina House voted 61 to 59 in favor of a bill creating a government-run lottery in April, the bill could fail in the Senate. Five Democrats and all 21 Republicans oppose the lottery, leaving Senate leader Marc Basnight without enough votes to pass the lottery.

Earlier this week, Basnight vowed to hold a vote by Saturday, meaning at least one Senator would have to change their vote for the lottery to pass.

This North Carolina citizen hopes the lottery fails.

I support legalized gambling and have no moral objections to people blowing their hard-earned money at the black jack table or roulette wheel. People spend their money on all types of silly things and I don’t believe the government should tell the citizens what is appropriate and what isn’t. Think of all of the money the state could make if they legalized gambling, regulated and taxed it.

Unfortunately our legislators think they know best and tell us gambling is wrong, unless of course it is state sponsored gambling. A lottery is gambling, no matter how you try to spin it.

Proponents of the state sponsored gambling argue the lottery will help pay for Governor Mike Easley’s initiatives on class-size reduction and pre-kindergarten learning.

Some money the lottery generates may eventually help fund these initiatives, but aren’t our tax dollars supposed to pay for education?

The lottery is nothing more than an inefficient and unreliable tax that takes advantage of our most vulnerable citizens and hurts small businesses.

According to one anti-lottery organization, Citizens United Against the Lottery, a lottery would take 1.35 billion dollars from the state’s economy.

Proponents of the lottery also claim North Carolina loses anywhere from $100 million to $300 million a year to lotteries in other states, but this argument is flawed.

&uot;The real revenue loss to other states is closer to $80 million, which isn’t as large as the administrative costs of setting up and running our own lottery,&uot; argue Citizens United Against the Lottery.

&uot;More than half of whatever North Carolinians spend on out-of-state lottery tickets comes back to North Carolina in the form of prizes, which is taxed by state and local governments when received or spent and this money also circulates throughout local economies,&uot; according to the John Locke Foundation.

Proponents claim lotteries are a harmless form of gambling, but according to groups like the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, lotteries are a highly addictive form of gambling.

The high-powered out of state gambling industry continues to lobby behind the scenes to get a $100 million a year state contract to run the lottery. These gambling industry lobbyists look for states facing budget troubles and come in selling the lottery as a false promise that will solve all the problems.

Although people of all socioeconomic backgrounds play the lottery, most lottery studies conclude people in lower-income brackets play far more and the impact on their lives is more dramatic.

The Washington Post reported that almost half of Maryland ‘s heavy players of the lottery come from households earning less than $20,000.

Some have even argued having a lottery would create thousands of new jobs and create hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars of economic growth. I don’t have any statistics to refute the claim, but every lottery ticket I’ve seen was bought from a convenience store. I sincerely doubt convenience storeowners would need to hire hundreds of new people to sell lottery tickets.

Some of the legislators who originally claimed to oppose a state lottery supported a referendum on the issue. This idea mysteriously disappeared. I guess the idea of relinquishing some of their power and allowing the people of North Carolina to make their own decisions terrified these legislators.

I hope our state senators resist the temptation to resort to government-run gambling to pay for the education of our children.