Over the years, this page has persistently opposed repeated efforts to get Utah to adopt a state lottery.
So persistent, in fact, has our opposition been in the face of the adoption of lotteries in 30 states that some Utahns may think our view is out of touch with reality.Not so. Plenty of other publications and plenty of other commentators around the country also keep fighting this form of legalized gambling. As just the latest case in point, consider the following excerpts from a report this week by columnist Kenneth Eskey of Scripps Howard News Service:
- Buying a lottery ticket is a waste of money. States give back in prizes only half of what they take in. A few players win big. The rest lose money - the longer they play, the more they lose.
- Lotteries are not painless. Betting is heavy among Hispanics, blacks and laborers with low-paying jobs. Go into any roadside store and you'll find the poorest customers buying lottery tickets.
- Lottery profits are essentially flat or declining. Revenues are up because new states enter the game each year. Minnesota, for example, expects to sell 50 million tickets in four or five weeks next spring.
- Churches, especially in the Bible Belt, tend to oppose lotteries. That is why most Southern and some Western states have no lotteries.
- A national lottery, competing with states, would be hard to sell.
- Mary Laschober, who conducts lottery research at the University of Illinois, points out that once the novelty wears off, lotteries have a hard time maintaining their revenue base. "As people become bored with existing games, interest wanes and sales decrease," she says. "New games and aggressive marketing and promotion seem necessary to maintain revenues."
- The push for more advertising and more bonus games has prompted soul-searching in Maryland, which raises more than $75 in per capita income from its lottery each year, highest in the nation. Legislators in Maryland are requiring a notice on each lottery ticket that says: "Compulsive gambling can be treated. If you know someone who has a gambling problem, call Gamblers Anonymous."
A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that Maryland has as many as 101,000 "problem gamblers" and another 69,000 who might be considered "pathological gamblers."
Yet the governor is complaining that lottery revenues are down for the first time in 15 years and has told his lottery drumbeaters to find new ways to raise money.
Plenty of other arguments can also be mustered against state lotteries. One of them is that lotteries appeal the most to the people who can afford them the least - namely, the poor. Another is that lotteries, in the words of Saul Leonard, who studies lotteries for the accounting firm of Laventhol and Horwath, "are the only government operations where revenues determine how much a jurisdiction has to spend, rather than vice versa."
Instead of copying others' mistakes, Utah should learn from them by continuing to resist efforts to push the state lottery here.