By Rev. Mark Creech
Christian Action League
March 18, 2022
Now and then, North Carolinians read or hear a news story about someone who won big bucks playing the state lottery. For instance, Fox 8 reported that Kelly Wyatt of Statesville bought a $30 scratch-off ticket and won $1 million last week. She bought the ticket at a convenience store. After required state and federal tax withholdings, Wyatt took home a little over $426,000.
The excitement of winning hundreds of thousands of dollars is what most people think about when they think of the lottery. Rarely do they ever consider its original purpose, which was to fund education in the state. That objective has proven to be a sham.
In 2017, the Fayetteville Observer correctly noted:
“The problem is that the General Assembly has done exactly what lottery critics warned would happen. It used lottery proceeds to substitute for regular education funding in the state budget…One of the big promises of the lottery was that it would channel millions of dollars into school construction, a boon to ‘low wealth’ counties…But interim Cumberland County school superintendent Tim Kinlaw – who has long overseen school building programs, says… ‘We actually receive less capital outlay funds from the state now, which includes the lottery funds, than we were receiving prior to the lottery.’
“Why is that? It’s because the lottery revenue isn’t considered a bonus anymore. It’s no longer the means to do the extra things that raise our school systems – and our children’s potential – to excellence. Instead, it’s simply part of the diminished educational revenue stream that is dooming our schools and our kids to mediocrity.”
Oh, how one hates to say it. But those of us who worked so hard to stop this farce told you so. As Jesus said to the people of his day, “We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented” (Mathew 11:17).
Our state lottery has been a spectacular failure, and this fact should be carefully considered as some are now making a case for new forms of gambling as sources of government revenue.
It might be of interest to many people how the so-called education lottery was finally passed and made legal in the Tar Heel state. The Christian Action League was at the very heart of the battle to defeat the initiative. So let’s take a short trip down memory lane.
Below is an article I wrote about it, reporting to supporters of the League in 2005:
“At the end of the legislative session, Senate leaders in Raleigh were unable to muster enough votes to pass a state-run lottery. One night, after a marathon twenty-and-a-half-hour session, Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight told the Senate that they had concluded their business for the year, there would be no more votes taken, and the lottery would not be considered until May 2006. But only two days after this announcement, Basnight sent out a notice to Senate members that, in fact, the Senate would return on Tuesday, August 30, for a full session and a vote on the lottery would be taken.
“During the weekend, it was reported that two lottery opponents were expected to be absent from the Senate when it was to convene on Tuesday. Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) was on his honeymoon. Sen. John Garwood (R-Wilkes) was at home recovering from a leg infection and upon doctor’s orders would be unable to return.
“Although expected to be absent from the Senate floor, both senators could have had their “no” votes paired with a “yes” vote of members present. Pairing, which is an old Senate tradition, is a means of canceling out any difference caused by their absence. Had these two Senate members paired there vote it would have kept the weight of support against the lottery at what it was the week before, 26-24. But without their votes paired, the vote would be a tie of 24-24 and Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue would certainly cast the deciding vote for the lottery.
“By Monday, August 29, efforts to contact Sen. Brown had been futile. He was reportedly out of the country and his vote not paired. According to the press, Senator John Garwood had indicated he had no plans to return and had not sought to be paired.
“At 4:00 a.m. Tuesday, August 30, I left my home in Kenly and drove 200 miles to the home of Sen. John Garwood in North Wilkesboro. At 8:15 a.m. I was standing on Garwood’s doorstep and was invited in by the legislator. I explained to Garwood that everything regarding the lottery’s passage hinged on what he would do. I also explained to the legislator his spiritual and political duties in the matter and urged him to pair. I can’t give the specifics about what we discussed because I don’t want to break any confidentiality. He was very gracious, receptive, and hospitable. When I left and started my drive back, I was in route to the General Assembly and optimistic he would do the right thing.
“Garwood did do the right thing — at first. Within an hour, I received a phone call on my cell phone from a colleague saying that Garwood had paired, which was later confirmed by Garwood in a phone call I immediately made to the senator about the matter. But approximately an hour later, still in route to the General Assembly, I received another phone call from the same colleague who had called earlier; this time to say that Garwood had changed his mind and reversed his position. I called Garwood again from my cell phone, but there was no answer. It was devastating. We had refortified the line! We still had a 25-24 margin! And in a moment, we had lost it! How could this happen, I thought.
“Upon arriving at the General Assembly, I went directly to the office of Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), the Senate Minority Leader. I had hoped perhaps the Republican leadership might prevail upon Garwood to change his position back to pairing. Berger explained to me that before my arrival at the General Assembly, a conference call had taken place with the Senate leadership to determine for certain Garwood’s position. Included in that phone call were Senators Marc Basnight (D-Dare), Tony Rand (R-Cumberland), David Hoyle (D-Gaston), Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson). During the call, Rand and Basnight sought to persuade Garwood the lottery would be good for education. It was at that time Garwood changed his position and decided to reverse his pair. Later, Berger and Senator Jerry Tilman (R-Randolph) had a separate phone call with Garwood (a phone call that actually took place while I was waiting in the lobby of Berger’s office) and expressed it was the desire of the Republican caucus that he pair his vote against the lottery. Garwood’s decision was once again not to pair.
“Only minutes later, the N.C. Senate convened, and HB 1023 – North Carolina State Lottery Act was taken up for consideration. Although everyone was fairly certain how the vote would come out, there were passionate remarks made against the measure. Senator Andrew Brock (R-Davie) said, ‘Is this a lesson we teach our children? “Don’t do your homework, don’t work hard, you’ll make it rich.”‘ Senator Ham Horton (R-Forsyth) argued, ‘The lottery is nothing but a fleecing of the people of North Carolina.’ Senator Jim Jacumin (R-Burke) was quite eloquent when he contended, ‘Senators, if God can’t bless it, we shouldn’t be doing it.’ When the debate had seemingly wound down, Senator Rand called for the previous question, and the vote was taken, resulting in a 24-24 tie — which, as expected, Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue broke by voting ‘Aye’ in favor of the lottery.
“When the third reading of the bill was to be taken, Senator Hugh Webster (R-Alamance) objected. But Perdue contended that since lawmakers had previously voted to suspend the rules, a third reading could be taken immediately and not held over for another day, as is the proper procedure for a revenue bill. After three very loud objections by Webster, Perdue called for a voice vote on the third reading, which she gave to the ‘Ayes.’
“On Wednesday, August 31, Governor Mike Easley signed the lottery bill into law. The signing ceremony took place in the old House Chamber of the State Capitol. Easley proclaimed that the signing was a historic day for North Carolina. ‘In the house it passed by one vote. In the Senate it passed by one vote. And I just signed …’ he said.
“Easley was right. The signing of lottery legislation was a historic day — but not as the governor thought. That unholy trinity of votes that passed the lottery corrupts State government; so much so, our state motto, ‘Esse Quam Videri’ — which means ‘To Be Rather Than to Seem’ now rings hollow. Our state has entered the gambling business’ world of vice and deception.”
A couple of interesting and relevant points today is, because of his role in the lottery’s success, Republican Sen. John Garwood lost his re-election bid to an anti-lottery Republican Primary challenger. In contrast to Garwood’s actions, no Republican present in the Senate at that time voted for the lottery. All Republicans were opposed to expanding any form of gambling in the state.
Not so today. Nine Republican Senators recently voted for the legalization of Sports Gambling: Senators Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston), Todd Johnson (R-Union), Michael Lazzara (R-Onslow), Michael Lee (R-New Hanover), Tom McInnis (R-Anson), Jim Perry (R-Lenoir), Bill Rabon (Brunswick), and Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell). All except 4 Democrats voted for sports wagering, and most Republicans voted against it – a good gauge that most Republicans are still against legalized gambling, and most Democrats are for it.
Gambling is vigorously opposed by people of goodwill on both the political Left and Right. Why? Because, as Stop Predatory Gambling (SPG) summarizes it:
“It’s a form of consumer financial fraud like price gouging and false advertising, and it causes life-changing financial losses for tens of millions of citizens. Over the next eight years, the American people are on course to lose more than $1 trillion of their personal wealth to government-sanctioned gambling. At least half of this personal wealth – $500 billion – will be lost to state lotteries.”
SPG further states:
“Despite the public relations campaigns by state lotteries professing all the ‘benefits’ they provide the public, most citizens regard the lotteries as a loser for our society. Lotteries lack authentic grassroots support. The Massachusetts Lottery’s own survey data showed less than 1 out of 10 people agreed with the statement that ‘the lottery improves the quality of life for the state’s citizens.’ The only people who claim otherwise are the state lotteries themselves, the gambling-interest groups who market and sell the games, and the political officials who approve of the scheme. The rest of us are all the losers.”
Indeed, the overwhelmingly vast majority of us are losers, and so is the state in the end. This is the indisputable hard truth about state-sanctioned gambling, not the perceived fun and excitement of the miniscule number who personally win quick riches.
Do we really think it will be any different if North Carolina legalizes sports wagering? It won’t!
O Merciful God, save us from this foolishness. And save us from those who peddle and promote it.