Stam Has a Point On Lottery 'Scam'
E ven those of us who don't agree with N.C. House Majority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam on some other issues have to resonate with his recent comments about the state lottery. Some of his specific ideas might not work in real life, but at least his heart seems to be in the right place.
One change urged by Stam, a Wake County Republican, would be to remove the word "Education" from the official name used in advertising - "the N.C. Education Lottery."
That noble word, he says, should not be used to sell "something that is essentially a scam." This especially bugs him, he adds, because "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."
Good point. And it is refreshing, by the way, to hear Stam describe education as "a very important function of state government," at a time when so many of his conservative GOP colleagues in Raleigh these days seem more bent on turning as much of that job as possible over to private schools and charters.
Ban Sales to Welfare Recipients?
On a more substantive level, Stam also attracted attention with his proposal, first reported in The News & Observer's Under the Dome blog, to outlaw the sale of lottery tickets to people who are in bankruptcy or who receive public welfare assistance.
"We're giving them welfare to help them live," he said, "and yet by selling them a ticket, we're taking away their money that is there to provide them the barest of necessities."
We at The Pilot couldn't agree more with such concerns in principle, at least, which is why we argued editorially against North Carolina's decision to go down the lottery road in the first place.
The undesirability of that move has stood out even more strongly and ironically in recent months with the court battle over the various incarnations of Internet cafes, and which of them should be outlawed because they amount to gambling. After all, gambling is illegal in North Carolina - unless the state happens to be the one operating the games that are separating gullible people from their hard-earned money.
As Stam acknowledged, it might be hard for already-harried convenience store clerks to know who is on welfare and who isn't. As a halfway measure, he suggested that the state might make it illegal to sell lottery tickets to customers who were using food stamps for other purchases. But that, too, would appear to put an extra burden on clerks, exposing them to abuse from disappointed patrons.
Stam complained that lottery ads are "just fraudulent" because they don't include the information about the tiny probability of winning the much-touted large prizes. Lottery officials replied that the odds are available from the official website, though that offers small comfort.
Alice Garland, executive director of the state lottery, responded to another of Stam's points last week when she said that taking the word "Education" out of the name would cut into lottery sales.
Well, yeah. But for lottery critics, that's kind of the point.
More like this story