Talking Points (Lotteries)

Lottery – General

  • States should not be in the business of deceiving and exploiting citizens through gambling expansion, like lotteries, that rely on regressive taxation.
  • It is bad policy and an irresponsible government that relies on uncertain sources of revenue like gambling to pay for important and necessary entities like education.
  • Lotteries represent an inefficient means of taxation, while creating an ethical paradox wherein government simultaneously protects and exploits citizens.
  • "How can we begin to know how to deal with this when the nation is glorifying gambling, when the state is the biggest bookie in town?" – Henry Lesieur, quoted, USA Today, April 5, 1995.
  • Lottery states find themselves in the awkward, hypocritical position of aggressively promoting one form of gambling (lotteries) while criminalizing others (such as video poker or sports betting).
  • Lotteries promote the pathology of false hope, and states encourage such false notions through advertisements.
  • "Lottery revenues ... seem to depend on massive advertising budgets. It's sponsored gambling. Many of us think that's an inappropriate message to be coming from government." - Bill Lockyer, Senate President in California
  • "States ought not to be in the business of lotteries. It's a conflict of interest. States are here to protect and serve." - Howard J. Shaffer, director of the division on addictions at Harvard Medical School
  • "People look to the government to be honest and straight forward and not to be using suckering kinds of techniques." – Attorney General, California

Video Lottery Terminals

  • Video gambling machines (or VLTs) are the most addictive form of gambling ever developed – people are becoming addicted in just one year.
  • VLTs are being called the "crack cocaine" of the gambling industry because they cause addiction so quickly and hook people so deeply.

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

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.

  • State control and accountability. States have the ability to temper lotteries in an effort to put concerns of citizens first, whereas states have less control over private entities.
  • Motives: Public good vs. profit. If lotteries are run by private companies, profits will supersede concern for citizens' well-being. Exploitation will become a great concern.
  • Lobbying and political influence. Once private companies have turned a profit, they'll begin to lobby Congress or state legislators to expand lotteries.
  • Another licensed casino. Are these any different than casinos, other than having a few more obligatory strings attached?
  • Growth. Private companies could incorporate Internet lotteries, multi-state lotteries, cell phone access and online global lotteries for billions of dollars – most likely breeding subsequent addictions.
  • Corruption and oversight. State lotteries are already plagued with corruption. How much less control and oversight will the state and citizens have if a private company operates the lottery?
  • Recycled gambling. Can we – or should we – recycle any form of gambling, especially when it is a state-owned operation?
  • Nature of lotteries. Will privatization change the fact that lotteries deceive and exploit people through propagating false hope among citizens of lower economic status?

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."Minutes from National Council of Legislators from Gaming States meeting, January 4, 2008.

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