By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
January 30, 2013
RALEIGH — Changes may be coming to the N.C. Education Lottery as lawmakers discuss ways to make the gambling “more honest” and perhaps even make tickets off limits to those on welfare.
“We’re giving them welfare to help them live, and yet by selling them a ticket, we’re taking away their money that is there to provide them the barest of necessities,” Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) told the media last week in reference to draft legislation that could make it illegal for stores to knowingly sell tickets to welfare recipients or customers in the midst of bankruptcy.
He admitted that the logistics of such a law would be challenging, since clerks won’t have an obvious way of knowing who is receiving government assistance unless they use food stamps to pay for other items, and customers who have filed for bankruptcy would be even more difficult to identify. Overall, Stam said, legislation being discussed is designed to help protect consumers by making sure the information used in lottery advertisements is truthful.
“We certainly don’t believe people receiving government assistance should be wasting those funds on lottery tickets, but we also don’t know how the type of legislation being considered could work,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “What we’d really like to see is a truly bold bill to repeal the lottery altogether.”
Although reportedly certified by the World Lottery Association for its “responsible gaming program,” for labeling each ticket with a “Play Responsibly” message and a gambling addiction hotline number, the lottery has come under fire in the past for featuring young children in its ads and filming at a state university. Lottery advertising was banned from university system sporting events in 2007.
“We fought the lottery tooth and nail from the beginning and still believe its not too late to do the right thing and pull the plug entirely,” said Dr. Creech, “especially since the lottery hasn’t improved spending for education whatsoever.“
In fact, according to a report by the North Carolina Justice Center, the state spent less on K-12 education in the 2010-2011 school year than it did in the last school year before the lottery began, even without taking into consideration inflation or increases in student population. Despite promises by lottery promoters, funds from the gambling have not supplemented education funds so much as they have supplanted them. Further, the overall share of the lottery’s gross proceeds that goes to education has declined from 35 percent to 29 percent.
“The original justification that the lottery would provide a beneficial supplement to education funding that outweighs societal evils is no longer valid since the state now spends less on education funding than it did before the lottery was enacted,” the Law and Justice Center report concluded. “The lottery is now a tax on the poor that brings gambling into the state’s communities without adding anything to the state’s education system.”