By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
May 26, 2023
Video gaming machines would become legal in North Carolina under a bill that the sponsor touted this week as another source of revenue, but pro-family critics said would it lead to personal debt and addiction.
The bill, HB 512, would legalize video gaming, more specifically, video lottery terminals, across the state and get rid of the “seedy aspects of unregulated gambling,” according to Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican and the bill’s sponsor. There are between 60,000 to 100,000 illegal gaming machines across the state. They are often called “sweepstakes parlors.”
“[The bill] provides legitimate regulated tax business development and employment opportunities,” Warren said. “It fulfills a consumer demand for gaming entertainment by providing secure gaming situations, greater winning percentages and guaranteed winnings payout.”
Warren made the comments to the House Commerce Committee, which discussed the bill and heard comments from the public. The committee did not vote on the bill.
Although Warren said the bill would clean up the industry and help get rid of crime, several experts said the bill would create new problems.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, told committee members during public testimony that the bill would not fulfill the sponsor’s many promises.
“Despite the earnest promises of a substantial contribution to education funding, the North Carolina Education Lottery has fallen significantly short of the expectations that we were promised,” Creech told committee members. “If the lottery were a person working for state government, he would have been fired for poor performance. Yet this bill asks us to keep investing in something because it’s here, we’ve invested considerable time, money and effort already spent, even though doing so is most likely not the best action moving forward.”
Creech labeled state-sponsored gambling a “sunk-cost fallacy.”
“In other words, we are being asked to endow further effort in a failed government policy,” he said. “Never mind the lottery’s regressive nature and its addiction risks. Never mind how video lottery terminals are linked to the worst gambling harms, how they target low-income areas selling false hope, how they are associated with increased violence, crime, mental health issues and even suicide.”
Arguments based on the so-called “freedom” to gamble aren’t legitimate, Creech added.
“What about my freedom and the liberty of the people I represent who are forced to share in the social costs of a practice that they don’t participate in?” he asked. “What about the freedom of those bound by the constraints of overwhelming debt and bankruptcy? Is it proper for the government to enact a policy that can make its citizens losers and financial slaves? The Christian Action League urges you not to vote for what amounts to nothing more than a ‘sunk-cost fallacy.’ It isn’t right for us not to admit our past errors and further fleece the people of North Carolina.”