Executive Director laments people can ‘quickly click away their bank account, thanks to the state of North Carolina’
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
September 25, 2013
RALEIGH — Losing money and gaining a gambling addiction may soon be easier than ever in North Carolina where the state lottery will begin online sales of tickets for Powerball, Mega Millions and Carolina Cash 5 in November. Users of the subscription service offered via the N.C. Lottery’s Lucke-Zone web site, would gamble the same lottery numbers for at least two weeks and would use their debit card or electronic fund transfer to pay.
“In other words, folks will be able to sit on their couch with their laptop and quickly click away their bank account, thanks to the state of North Carolina,” lamented the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, which has always opposed the lottery.” This gambling trap was bad enough already without these additional lures that will only create more heartache for individuals and families via addiction and rising social costs for our communities.”
Alice Garland, executive director of the N.C. Education Lottery, said the online subscription service, similar to that offered in 11 other states, was about convenience and “providing better customer service.” But lawmakers and retailers alike are raising questions and objections to the idea.
“Those who are going to be losing money because of online, is there going to be any compensation for them?” Rep. Pat Hurley (R-Randolph) said, in defense of more than 6,800 North Carolina stores that sell lottery tickets.
Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford) told the media the plan runs contrary to the Legislature’s ban on Internet sweepstakes.
“We’ve said very clearly, gambling on the Internet and these type machines is bad. It’s not good for you,” he said.
The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association appealed to the Lottery Oversight Committee, co-chaired by Blust, to step in and help prevent an “adverse impact on brick-and-mortar retailers with little benefit to the state.” The group pointed not only to an anticipated loss of lottery ticket sales, for which the stores earn 7 percent commission, but also the sale of soda, snacks, water and other products typically purchased alongside the tickets.
Further, the NCRMA said the online sales could become “a gateway for gambling addiction” and would increase risk of sales to underage players.
“Retailers have many years of experience selling age-restricted items and are best suited to age-verify lottery ticket purchasers,” NCRMA President Andy Ellen wrote in a Sept. 17 letter to the Committee. He said a majority of those polled last year by the Retail Industry Leaders Association were opposed to online lottery ticket sales.
The N.C. Lottery, which reported some $478 million in net profits last fiscal year, hopes the online offering would increase sales by a percentage point or two.
“More important than any expected loss of store sales or anticipated gain in N.C. Lottery revenue is the effect this will have on the people of North Carolina,” said Dr. Creech. “While we understand there would be some protections in place to try to verify the age of subscribers, there is no way the state can tell who is sitting at a computer accessing an account. With online sales minors will gain more access to gambling. Further, putting the games online — even if a subscriber is supposedly limited to spending $70 per week — will make it easier for occasional gamblers to become addicts.”
He said when gamblers don’t even have to drive to a store to buy a ticket, but can do it in the privacy of their home, without even having to get out their wallet, it makes spending the money seem less real and therefore makes it easier to overspend.
“Already, many of the people who buy lottery tickets truly can’t afford them, but the allure of something for nothing draws them in,” he said. “Now that draw will reach right into their living room or to their smart phone wherever they are, and in a few clicks they are gambling away their paycheck or grocery money.”
He said the plan for online ticket sales reveals the sad truth about state lotteries — they must constantly find new ways to prey on the public, drawing in new gamblers to maintain profits that states have come to depend on.
In a recent editorial the Winston-Salem Journal pointed out the problem: “States get addicted to the revenue and keep expanding gambling to get more cash. Online lottery sales only feed North Carolina’s addiction.”