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Raising state revenue through lotteries isnt worth the gamble

At some point isn't morality more important than money?

The rush by state governments to embrace gambling is not only foolish, it's tragic. But when it comes to filling state coffers, logic not only goes out the window, it disappears.The National Gambling Impact Study Commission is calling for a moratorium on opening new operations. As panel member Richard Leone told Gannett News Service, gambling's pervasive presence has led to "reckless, desperate behavior that's bad for families, bad for the country and bad for the culture." Gambling, he said, "doesn't reflect the kind of hard work and realism about life that makes this country strong."

Kay James, who headed the commission during its two years of work, said much the same thing following the official release of the report last Friday. "I'm deeply disturbed by the impact of gambling on individuals, on families and on communities."

Leone and James are correct. Instead of trying to expand gambling opportunities, states should be trying to reduce them. But doing what's right is obviously taking a back seat to greed.

How else can anybody explain this statement by Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton, who is proposing establishing 12 to 14 casinos in his state: "From the nation's perspective, one might legitimately say the nation ought to pause. But the fundamental question I've been wrestling with is, it appears Kentucky is suffering from all the ill effects (of gambling) and getting none of the benefits."

Brilliant, governor. For the sake of some green stuff you want the cancer to spread throughout your state as well.

Some groups have proposed legalizing marijuana. Now there's a moneymaker. Think of all the funds states could generate from collective marijuana farms. Using the Kentucky governor's logic, all states should grow marijuana so that they at least could get the large tax revenue benefits in addition to the multitude of problems it would cause.

Utah is one of only three states (Hawaii and Tennessee are the others) that don't allow some form of legal gambling. It is to be commended for sticking to its principles and not trying to make a quick buck from a state-sponsored lottery. How easy it would be to follow the Kentucky path and say that, since a number of Utahns go to Idaho to buy lottery tickets, why not keep that revenue in state by sponsoring a Utah lottery?

The state lotteries, while appearing to be relatively harmless, point out how gambling affects those who can least afford it.

The poorer, less-educated people provide the major share of money for state lotteries. States compound the problem by using slick ads that are misleading to make the lotteries appear more winnable than they truly are. The ads stress how a person's life will change if he or she wins. They rarely have any information about the odds for winning the heavily advertised big lottery jackpots, which are 1 in 14 million.

Think anybody will see ads that begin, "Do you realize, you only have one chance in 14 million of winning a jackpot?" That "you're much more likely to be in a fatal auto accident on the way home than winning the jackpot?"

According to Duke University economist Phillip Cook, lottery players who never graduated from high school spend an average of $700 a year on lotteries; high school graduates spend $409; those who attended some college spend $210; and college graduates spend $178. These are the average figures. Some of the poor undoubtedly spend thousands of dollars a year on the lottery. Basically, they're throwing their money away.

Utah is wise not to fall for the greed trap. Quite simply, it's not worth the gamble.

Editorial writer John Robinson can be reached by e-mail at