By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
June 3, 2016
RALEIGH – The North Carolina Senate gave its stamp of approval to budget adjustments that would increase teacher pay, raise standard deductions on personal income tax and broaden Opportunity Scholarships. The $22.2 billion spending plan approved Thursday would also double the advertising budget for the state lottery.
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said, “It’s disappointing to see the misplaced faith in the lottery by this decision to double lottery advertising. The lottery, state sponsored gambling, is a major policy failure. It’s highly regressive and is an unsustainable revenue source. It will not help the state budget. Lottery revenue comes largely from Social Security, unemployment and other forms of government assistance. It’s nothing but the government, paying government with other monies being siphoned off for gambling interests. It’s dishonest and it doesn’t fulfill any of its promises.”
The Senate budget bill, which was a revision of House Bill 1030, was headed back to the House, which is expected not to concur with the Senate changes. From there the bill will go to a conference committee for differences to be resolved.
Already the N.C. Lottery is allowed to spend 1 percent of total annual revenues on advertising. If the Senate measure wins approval, that would increase to 2 percent, or an additional $19 million based on fiscal year 2015 finance reports. The Lottery aims to sell $2.04 billion in tickets for the current year, which could push the advertising cap to $40.8 million if the 2 percent rule remains in the budget.
Gambling opponents have pointed out that studies show per-capita lottery ticket sales are already higher in some of the state’s poorest counties. They fear that increasing ads would lead to more gambling addicts and spark higher rates of divorce, bankruptcies, domestic violence and other crimes.
Lottery officials say the added revenue is needed to expand digital and online advertising and to run more short radio ads informing listeners about jackpot amounts in multistate Powerball and Mega Millions games.
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. “A number of us have felt for some that we needed greater disclosure with what you are actually buying when you purchase a ticket.”
There is also a lack of consensus about what growing lottery revenues should be used for. Some lawmakers want the money 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. They just haven’t been able to agree on the details.