By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
January 31, 2020
Digital instant lottery games would “prey on vulnerable people and risk real harm to both communities and families.” That’s the opinion of state Attorney General Josh Stein, who wrote a letter Jan. 22 warning the North Carolina Education Lottery not to implement the online games and reminding them that they are not authorized to offer games that could qualify as video gambling.
“On this issue, the Attorney General is absolutely correct. I appreciate his weighing in on the matter,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “If the Lottery Commission really cares about the people of North Carolina, they would be wise to heed his counsel.”
Nevertheless, lottery officials appear poised to add eight to 12 such games, which they say could generate $80 million in net proceeds annually within five years. The commission has been toying with the idea since at least 2017 and recently rolled out a plan in which players would be allowed to deposit up to $505 per day in their online accounts, with a weekly maximum of $2,000 and a monthly maximum of $4,000.
“Lotteries work this way. They have something akin to product life-cycle curves. Players get bored with the games that are offered. So the people who manage it want to counter by changing the product mix, altering the product, and in this case, making it exceedingly more convenient – even more difficult for players to stop playing it,” the Rev. Creech explained.
Rather than buying a lottery ticket at a convenience store, gamblers would access the fast-paced games on their phone or tablet, using them as a form of escape and entertainment and playing longer, promoters say. The Lottery Commission sees the move as a way to draw in and retain younger gamblers and points to the fact that the games are already allowed in five other states and under consideration in many more.
“Their points are well taken and to a great degree the very reasons that state lawmakers should quash this idea before it goes any further,” said the Rev. Creech. “Having the lottery in North Carolina is bad enough without using the most alluring form of gambling to entice our young people. This is appalling.”
Roxboro Police Chief David Hess, who heads the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police, said legalizing digital instant lottery games would make it “virtually impossible” to enforce the state’s sweepstakes ban. And in a letter to lawmakers last month, former House Speaker Pro-Tem Paul Stam said that the only difference between what’s being proposed and sweepstakes/video poker gaming is who would promote the games and collect the revenue. Further, at least 30 House Democrats signed on to a letter last month promising to try to ban the digital instant games if the lottery moves ahead with its plan.
“There is an interesting dynamic on gambling issues – common ground – that conservative evangelicals find with progressives on the subject,” Creech said. “Generally speaking, both reject gambling – progressives see it as regressive and detrimental to the poor – conservative evangelicals agree with the progressives’ assessment but also see gambling as immoral – something that stirs the idolatrous spirit of covetousness and takes from others without providing due compensation.”
He said what the Lottery Commission is considering would have devastating consequences and precipitate “a gambling explosion in the Tar Heel state.”
“There are few things as immoral as the people’s government fleecing them for additional revenue, all in the name of educating our children,” Creech added.