A lottery addiction

From an editorial in Saturday’s (Greensboro) News & Record:

Not a single Republican senator voted for the lottery a decade ago. Sen. Phil Berger, Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Jerry Tillman and several others still serving voted no.

Times have changed.

The lottery passed anyway in 2005, thanks to legislative chicanery by the Senate leader at the time, Democrat Marc Basnight.

Republicans control the legislature now, but during their four years in power they’ve made no move to get rid of the lottery. In its new budget, the Senate expects it to produce $562 million for the state treasury next year. Senators don’t want to give that up; in fact, they want more.

Within more than 700 pages of budget documents are substantial lottery changes: directing the introduction of “E-instant Games,” allowing an increase in lottery advertising by more than 50 percent, and reallocating how lottery revenue is spent.

These are misguided ideas.

Lottery changes should be presented in separate legislation, not in a massive budget that’s given very little time for debate. The lottery has a social impact, as well as financial, and the implications of promoting more gambling in the state should be considered carefully.

More advertising isn’t needed. Every retail store with a lottery display provides free advertising. So do media outlets that announce lottery winners. More paid advertising, in the form of glitzy TV ads, is overkill.

Finding ways to draw in the next generation of lottery players is unworthy of our state and a sad statement about the priorities of a party that only 10 years ago was proud to say no.