Visit about any civic club in our fair state, including your weekly ones in Moore County, and chances are during the meeting you’ll find folks holding a 50-50 raffle or another fun game to raise money for a good cause.

Now take that same civic spirit and expand it statewide. You’ll have folks across North Carolina playing fun games, taking a chance to win a prize and helping raise money — $709 million last year — for one of the most important causes in our state, public education.

In reality, the way that the Education Lottery operates is quite a different picture than the one imagined by a recent guest column in The Pilot, “Don’t Praise Lottery Winnings When People Are the Real Losers.”

Yes, the challenge for the Education Lottery is to operate lottery games statewide in that same spirit as our civic clubs raise money for their good causes. But we’re up for the challenge and have several ways to meet it. They include:

n Providing a broad base of games designed to have a lot of people playing a little rather than a few playing a lot. Our research shows that we have succeeded at that and so do our sales. You couldn’t have $2.8 billion in sales a year if a majority of North Carolinians didn’t enjoy lottery games and winning prizes.

* Creating a lot of winning experiences. Last year, prizes averaged $5 million a day, and 66 people won $1 million or more. Many prizes will make your day. A few will change a life.

* Having good business partners who share your values and goals. The guest column imagines the person selling lottery tickets as someone from out-of-state driving a fancy car. The truth is that the folks who sell lottery tickets are your neighbors, small business people, and some of our state’s most successful and respected retail brands.

* Following the best practices for selling lottery tickets responsibly. Your lottery became the youngest in the U.S. to obtain the highest certification possible in the world for responsible gaming. That certification covers all that the lottery does, from sales to security to advertising and marketing, and to being a good corporate citizen.

* Practicing conservative advertising. Advertising does play an important role in the lottery’s ability to raise money for the state, but the percentage of revenue going to advertising actually is less than 1 percent, far less than the 16 percent suggested in the column.

What we can all agree on is that we don’t want folks using money needed for rent, for health care, or for food on lottery tickets. The reality is most lottery players don’t. They’re using their entertainment dollars to have fun. Some people choose a movie. Others choose to play the lottery.

No sales organization will succeed for long if it takes advantage of its customers. No lottery will either.

We care about our players. They’re our customers. And if we can continue to strive to provide games that are fun and fair and played responsibility, we can continue to do our part in supporting our good cause for a long time to come.

Van Denton is director of communications for the N.C. Education Lottery.

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