State Lotteries

From the time the Europeans first landed on the Atlantic shore, lotteries have been a part of the American society. According to Will Spink, most states are currently operating a state lottery despite its bleak history in the U.S. (Spink 1). Since 1983, North Carolina has introduced lottery bills in the legislature every year (NC Christian 15). North Carolina Governor, Mike Easley, favors a lottery for increasing revenues for education (Analysis 2). However lucrative state lotteries appear on the surface, they create even more moral and financial difficulties for citizens, and this should encourage states to look at other means of resources instead of legalized gambling.

In a lottery fact sheet provided by Governor Easley's office, North Carolinians spend $100 million on the Virginia lottery and $25 million on the Georgia lottery. Since at least one-half of the lottery money goes to prizes then North Carolina has fifty percent of this money returned. Lottery proponents still argue that $40.6 million is still leaving North Carolina (Analysis 2). "Three stores on U. S. 29 just over the state line in Danville accounted for almost $12 million worth of ticket sales," and more than ninety percent of the customers were most likely North Carolinians (Lottery referendum 3A).

Research does support that many taxpayers play the lottery and proponents may feel that this justifies the lottery. In addition, research shows that lottery participation reaches almost evenly across all income groups. However, a 1999 survey for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission showed " that low and moderate income lottery taxpayers spend more on the lottery than do middle income taxpayers" (Analysis 3,4). In addition, this study revealed that education levels do affect how much a person spends on the lottery.

The biggest spenders were high school dropouts and as education levels increase, the amount of money spent decreases. African Americans spend more money on lotteries than any other racial group (NC Insider 2). Instead of helping the less fortunate acquire an education, the lottery widens the gap between them and the upper classes of society (Spink 3). Proponents support lottery referendums because it is the best way to raise money voluntarily without raising taxes.

People who play the lottery volunteer their money. However, lotteries do not necessarily prevent tax increases. In a study conducted by Money magazine, tax revenue was found to have increased by 21.7 percent over a five-year period in lottery states while only 7.2 percent in states without a lottery (NC Insider 2). In addition, opponents can counteract this support because often the cost of having a lottery is greater and the profit less than expected.

"Florida, for instance, spends $30 million each year to help people play the lottery", and "South Carolina has already allotted $1 million per year to deal with gambling addictions created by the availability of the lottery" (Spink 2). Proponents have a strong argument since lotteries are great sources of revenue for education in several states. Georgia has established several successful educational programs funded solely with lottery proceeds. One of the most impressive educational initiatives in

Georgia history is the HOPE Scholarship. Georgia high school students that graduate with an overall "B" average in core-curriculum classes are entitled to receive a HOPE grant. This scholarship "provides students with tuition, mandatory fees, and a book allowance for attendance at any of Georgia's public colleges, universities or technical colleges" (Educational uses 1). Governor Easley proposes that lottery taxes will supplement and not replace other taxes that support education (Analysis 2).

Other states have had the exact opposite to occur. In California, ninety percent of school superintendents believe it had an adverse effect on their getting other funds for their schools. In 1987, a study was conducted in Illinois that gave validity to what many lottery opponents claim happens in many cases: "While the lottery money to education increases, the total education funding in the state budget increases at a lower rate than it has in previous years" (Spink 3).

Money magazine's study proved that states with lotteries designate a lower percentage of their total budget to education than do states without a lottery. However, proponents could point to the fact that lottery states on an average spend more on education per student, than non-lottery states (NC Insider 2).

Research has difficulty proving or disproving social consequences of lotteries. A survey by Gam-Anon, the family counterpart of Gamblers Anonymous, did reveal that ten percent of its members abused their children, and fifty percent of the spouses reported physical and verbal abuse. Crimes like burglary, larceny, and auto theft increase by an average of three percent in states that implement a state lottery.

"Sixty percent of heavy gamblers admit to some sort of criminal activity within the past year". (Economic Facts 4). State government can find itself in a hypocritical position by promoting one form of gambling and criminalizing others. Society must also consider the impact of frequent lottery play on the work ethic of citizens and their desire to

get-rich-quick (NC Insider 2). In 1834, for some reason people chose to place prohibition of lotteries in every state constitution. Research and scrutiny into this reason is important before a state initiates a lottery (Williams 1). According to the United Methodists, "Gambling is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, and destructive of good government" (NC Christian 15).

A state lottery is not the answer for funding education. Other alternatives need exploring, such as closing loopholes that give various tax breaks and exemptions to businesses. This could increase North Carolina's revenue by $2 billion each year (NC Christian 15). North Carolina has lower tobacco taxes than the majority of states, so an increase in this tax to support education seems like an excellent step (Analysis 1).

According to John Hill, Ph.D, "Gambling is wrong-not because there is book, chapter and verse against it-but because it violates the higher principles in God's Word" (Hill 2). Education is too important to rely mostly on gambling revenue. North Carolina wants successful students not a generation of underage gamblers. North Carolina can make education a priority without adopting a state lottery. This "relatively innocuous form of gambling" can have disastrous repercussions (Spink 4). Support for education does not necessitate support for a state lottery.