By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
March 13, 2015
RALEIGH – Someone once said that there are two ideas about a secret: it’s either not worth keeping or it’s too good to keep. That seemed to be something of the sentiment this week as lawmakers in the state’s House mulled-over one of two lottery bills.
HB 30 – Name/Address of Lottery Winner Confidential, a measure proposed by Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake) would allow winners of the lottery to keep their names confidential. State law currently says winners and their winnings must be made public.
Jackson says that because of today’s technology the current policy makes winners vulnerable to their personal information being tracked down, and winners are being used to generate lottery ticket sales. He says whenever winners win a large jack-pot it can cause a lot of unwanted attention for them. “It seems like we are using their good fortune to advertise the lottery, and I don’t think that’s fair.” He believes it should be the decision of the winner whether or not they want their name and winnings made public.
Jackson says that a number of his constituents have said that they support the proposal. He also acknowledged that his father was one of them, having won a $1 million Powerball game in 2007. Jackson argues his father got calls from solicitors for months after his win.
The legislation was discussed in the House Judiciary III Committee last week and was slated to be taken up again on Wednesday of this week, but Jackson asked it be bumped because he was unable to attend. The bill is likely to resurface next Wednesday.
HB 30 has proven to be controversial. Rep. Michael Speciale, (R-Carteret) argued that he wants to know who wins the lottery because it ensures that the winner really is a legitimate person. He said he wanted to be certain winnings didn’t go to an organized crime figure like a “Tony Two Fingers.”
The North Carolina Education Lottery also opposes the measure, saying it diminishes a needed transparency. They argued that they were able to stop a $1 million fraud in 2012 because of the current policy requiring winners be made public information.
Raleigh News and Observer columnists, Barry Saunders, opined in his column which appeared on Monday, “There already exists deep distrust of government: the last thing that we need is for the Powerball winner’s identity to remain hidden…Not only does publicizing the winners encourage others to play, but not publicizing them makes it a certainty that fewer people will play.”
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League (CAL) said that the League has not taken a position on the bill at this time.
Creech added, “Let me just say the League’s influence was a major factor in keeping the lottery out of this state for 33 years. We hate the lottery whether winners are publicized or kept secret. The entire enterprise is a scam and a shame. The fact the state capitalizes on the vulnerabilities of its own citizens, making losers out of them, in order to sustain itself, makes any consideration of whether prize winners are made public or not like comparing a mountain to a molehill. I suppose there are some good arguments on both sides of Jackson’s bill. But for me personally, I think government transparency should trump proposed protections for people who choose to play a fool’s game.”
Lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats are considering compromises. The passage of HB 30 seems much in question.
Another lottery bill, HB 109 – Lottery Act Clarified, sponsored by Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) was taken up for discussion purposes only in the House Judiciary II Committee on Tuesday.
The bill would change North Carolina Education Lottery advertising and the games it can offer.
Stam explained to members of the committee that his bill was an amended version of the “Honest Lottery Act,” which was a previous effort that passed the House in 2013 but stalled in the Senate. He said the Senate’s inaction on the measure motivated him to go to Senate leaders and ask them what parts of the “Honest Lottery Act” were they not opposed. He said that he would then run a new bill with those provisions only. He argued that way we “could accomplish something to fix the lottery.”
Stam said lottery advertising needs fixing. He contended advertising should reflect the odds of winning the top prize and not simply the odds of winning any prize, which is the current practice and deceptive. He said no advertising or sponsorship ought to take place in connection with a high school or high school sporting event. He said that when posting a tabulation concerning lottery prizes on the North Carolina Education Lottery website, the Commission should show the estimated odds of winning each prize.
He also advocated the state ought to be transparent about where lottery funding is actually going. His measure provides that every state department or agency receiving lottery funds must make available to the public the amounts they receive and what activities those lottery funds supported.
His bill limits the types of lottery games that are played to “draw style and instant scratch off games,” and prohibits any other games being allowed except those games approved by the North Carolina General Assembly. Current law allows that any games played elsewhere in the United States can be played in the Tar Heel state. Stam said that such a practice was to essentially “outsource lottery policy to the craziest state in the nation.”
His bill would further ban cartoon characters from appearing on lottery tickets, as well as change every place the word “gaming” is used to the word “gambling.” “Gaming is like playing Monopoly or Wii,” he said. Gambling he added is something altogether different.
“Stam’s bill is a noble effort to make some of what’s bad about the lottery better – more honest and open,” said Dr. Creech. “He’s to be commended and the Christian Action League supports his efforts. If the state is going to encourage most of its citizens to throw away their good money to the whims of chance, then at least the state should tell the truth and nothing but the truth in their advertising, and at least they should tell folks where all the money is really going, which ain’t just to education, and at least the state shouldn’t do something manipulative just because another state does it, and at least the state should call this nonsense what it really is – gambling and not gaming.”
The House Judiciary II Committee is expected to vote on HB 109 at its next meeting.