By Hunter Hines and L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
July 7, 2016
RALEIGH – The North Carolina General Assembly did not approve a provision to the state’s budget measure by the Senate that would have doubled lottery advertising. The proposal would have increased lottery spending for advertising from its current level of 1 percent to 2 percent, or $19 million per year to $40.8 million. The proposal was abandoned during budget negotiations.
Lottery officials argued the added revenue was needed to expand digital and online advertising and to run more short ads informing listeners about jackpot amounts in multistate Powerball and Mega Millions games.
Opponents, however, like John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council said, “Research consistently shows state lotteries prey on the poor and increase the incidents of problem and pathological gambling, which leads to higher rates of crime, domestic violence, child abuse, divorce, bankruptcy, and even suicide.”
“I can remember when the Majority Party in the General Assembly, Republicans, gave staunch opposition to the lottery, said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Too many are now trading their opposition for support. What happened? The lottery is just as bad today as it was more than a decade ago when it was first touted as a means for raising funds for education.”
Dr. Creech added many lawmakers today respond to objections to the lottery by saying, “Well, that horse is already out of the barn and we need to make the best of it. If the lottery is going to do some good we need to increase its budget for advertising.”
Dr. Creech replied the horse may be out of the barn, but that should only mean it should be corralled – not given greater freedom to do harm.
Earlier this budget session, Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), the chief House budget-writer, said many lawmakers were looking for greater transparency for those who play the lottery.
“By going from 1 to 2 percent, that is a significant increase in advertising out there,” Dollar said during an early April committee meeting on the proposal. “A number of us have felt that we needed greater disclosure with what you are actually buying when you purchase a ticket.”
There is also a lack of consensus among legislators about the way growing lottery revenues should be used. Some want the revenue earmarked for pay raises for teachers in low-performing schools, while others believe it should be reserved for rural school construction.
The debate on lottery advertising budgets is not new. According to statewide media reports, either the House or Senate has sought lottery ad increases since 2014. Lawmakers just hasn’t been able to agree on the details.
“Recently a young man at the Legislative Building in Raleigh asked me, ‘Reverend, what’s wrong with the lottery?’ said Dr. Creech. “I responded, quite simply, anytime the government purposely makes losers of its citizens to sustain itself, that’s immoral. The entire business model for the lottery is predatory. Addiction is required if the lottery is to succeed. The New York Times has reported lotteries take up to 80% of their profits from just 10% of its players. The whole thing is a scam – an egregious lie. And we want to increase advertising for something like that? God forgive us.”
The Christian Action League commends the lawmakers who worked to get the lottery provision out of the budget bill.