About a dozen years ago, before North Carolina had a state lottery, several budget analysts issued a warning about American state governments: They were addicted to gambling revenues and couldn’t do without them.
In 2005, when the General Assembly approved the N.C. Education Lottery, Republicans were almost unanimously opposed. Now that they are in charge, however, no one is proposing the lottery’s elimination. The reason: North Carolina needs the money.
Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake, the House speaker pro tem, is about as rabid a lottery opponent as there is, but even he isn’t calling for the lottery’s end. He’s just calling the lottery a “scam.”
Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, voted for the lottery eight years ago and doesn’t agree with Stam on much. But he, too, in comments made to The N.C. Insider newsletter, was highly critical, saying the lottery and its name give a wrong impression. Glazier noted that both parties have failed to keep the promise, made in 2005, that lottery proceeds would all go to education and that they would not supplant existing education funds but would be used for new education initiatives.
Stam appears to have dropped, at least for now, his effort to take the word “education” out of the lottery’s title, but he is still pushing for other changes to advertising policy. He says it’s time to be more truthful with those who play the games and to advertise less.
We’d like to see Stam and Glazier lead a lottery reform effort that would return all lottery proceeds to education programs. They should unscramble the giant shell game involving how the state used the nearly $457 million that the lottery raised last year. They should push for proper use of the funds in the next budget.
That wouldn’t be an easy task because, in cutting state spending and lowering state taxes, the last three Legislatures have used lottery funds to plug budget holes.
In short, the analysts were right a dozen years ago. And now North Carolina is a state addicted to its gambling revenue.