State lawmakers are discussing draft legislation that would prohibit lottery retailers from knowingly selling tickets to customers who receive public assistance, such as food stamps, or are in bankruptcy, Pat Gannon at the Insider reports. "We're giving them welfare to help them live, and yet by selling them a ticket, we're taking away their money that is there to provide them the barest of necessities," said Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake. He acknowledged it would be difficult for lottery clerks to know whether players get government help. But he suggested that in obvious cases, such as when customers pay for groceries with food stamps, they shouldn't be allowed to buy lottery tickets at the same time.
Stam said that idea is one of several pertaining to the N.C. Education Lottery that may be considered during the coming legislative session. Most, he said, have to do with requiring the lottery to be "truthful" in its advertising. Stam said the proposals are aimed at protecting consumers. He added that there is no talk about repealing the lottery and that proceeds would still go toward education. "What they're talking about is making it a more honest lottery," he said.
Stam talked at length about how he believes the lottery attracts players of modest means who may not understand the odds. He said he believes many lottery ads are deceptive because they don't state the probabilities of winning particular prize amounts. The lottery advertises large cash payouts, he said, but the actual prizes are smaller after taxes and other deductions. The fact that the lottery doesn't give the actual values of prizes when advertising larger amounts is "just fraudulent," he said.
Another proposal would remove the word "Education" from N.C. Education Lottery for advertising purposes. Stam said the word "education" shouldn't be used to sell "something that is essentially a scam," especially because lottery proceeds account for a small percentage of state education funding. "It's just inappropriate to take what is a very important function of state government ... and use that as a selling point, when obviously the more educated you are, the less likely you are to play the lottery," he said.
Alice Garland, the lottery executive director, said last week that she believed taking "Education" out of the title would cut into lottery sales. Van Denton, a lottery spokesman, said lottery officials haven't fully reviewed all of the legislative proposals to gauge the impacts. The lottery tries to keep up with best practices in the industry, he said. "We work hard to make sure players have the information they need to play the lottery ... and to make good choices about how to spend their money," Denton said.
In late 2011, the lottery received a certification from the World Lottery Association for its "responsible gaming program," in part because each lottery ticket includes a "Play Responsibly" message, along with a phone number for a gambling hotline. The lottery also prints the estimated odds of winning a break-even prize on each ticket. Although the odds of winning each different prize amount aren't listed on each ticket, they are available on the lottery website and in the lottery "play centers" at retail locations. The lottery also publishes on its website the number of prizes remaining at all prize levels in scratch-off games.