Focus on the Family

Talking Points (Lotteries)

by Focus on the Family Issue Analysts

Lottery – General

Video Lottery Terminals

Lottery Privatization

In a 13-page opinion for the Attorney General of the U.S. Criminal Division, the U.S. Department of Justice claims that federal law bars states from privatizing lotteries. States must "exercise actual control over all significant business decisions made by the lottery enterprise" in order to comply with federal laws about lottery operations.1

Focus on the Family opposes lotteries and the sale of state lotteries to private entities for legal, ethical and pragmatic reasons. If a lottery is deemed a burden or is no longer serving the purpose for which it was intended, the state should close and remove all state-owned lottery operations.

Ultimately, privatization of a state lottery is the equivalent of allowing a single casino owner to have instant access to thousands of lottery locations across a state through convenience stores and other established lottery vendors. At least with the state ownership, lotteries are forced to be somewhat transparent with citizens and maintain a greater degree of accountability to state governments. With private ownership, however, many of these accountability and safety measures will be minimized if not completely absent.

Ernie Passailaigue, president of the North American Association of State & Provincial Lotteries, said, "[T]he act of privatizing lotteries is Wall Street driven. … when thinking about lottery privatization, policymakers will need to consider the loss of state oversight and motivation for corporate business decision-making."2

1Department of Justice legal opinion. Issued on October 16, 2008.