Utah leaders' reaction to a proposed national lottery was swift - and not much different from reaction nationwide: They don't like it.
Some members of Congress are talking about a lottery as a way to raise money without raising taxes, but visions of mega-jackpots aside, the very idea of a national game seems like a bad gamble for states already in the lottery business and for religious and social groups.Lotteries are now a billion-dollar industry. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia offer games, and sales this year are expected to top $20 billion - four times what they were in 1982, lottery officials say.
Most states make a profit of 30 percent to 40 percent that is earmarked for such things as education and aid to the elderly.
Here are responses to a national lottery to raise money for the federal deficit:
-Rep. Arlo James, D-Kearns: James has advocated, with no success, a change in the Utah Constitution to allow state lotteries, says there should be no national lottery because that would detract from the profitability of state lotteries.
-Bud Scruggs, chief of staff to Gov. Norm Bangerter: "A lottery is the most regressive tax there is because it harms the poor. Yes, it's voluntary. But so is alcohol consumption. The state sells liquor so it can control it, not promote it. If there were a lottery, we'd be having massive advertising campaigns promoting it. That's like promoting the sale of liquor - getting people to drink more so we could make more revenues. Absolutely wrong.
"Hey. I'll give you 10 to 1 odds that this thing won't pass in Congress."
-Don LeFevre, spokesman, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: "The First Presidency spoke on this issue four years ago. Their statement is: There can be no question about the moral ramifications of gambling. As it has in the past, the LDS Church stands opposed to gambling, including government-sponsored lotteries.
"Public lotteries are advocated as a means of relieving the burden of taxation. It has been clearly demonstrated, however, that all too often lotteries only add to the problems of the financially disadvantaged by taking money from them and giving nothing of value in return."
-Utah House Majority Leader Craig Moody, R-Sandy: "Congress won't balance the federal budget. They won't do it with more taxes, they won't do it with a lottery. Utahns aren't sympathetic to their budget deficit problems. We balance our state budget and they should balance the federal budget."
"We oppose the idea," said Michael Carr, director of the Michigan lottery and head of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.
Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, said Tuesday a national lottery was a possible revenue source to plug into the federal budget.
Make a dent?
A lottery would have to rake in a lot of money to put a dent in the $3.01 trillion national debt. A Congressional Research Service study in 1985 said every American over age 16 would have to spend $2,041 on the game to eliminate a deficit of $185 billion.