Last week we told you about information we obtained from the Lottery Commission demonstrating that Arkansas’ lottery is played heavily in our poorest counties. KARK News in Little Rock picked up our story, and aired a news interview with us about it.
Towards the end of the KARK-4 story about the lottery’s negative impact on Arkansas counties, lottery spokeswoman Jule Baldridge was quoted as saying, “We don’t want the money of anyone under the age of 18. Anyone playing with their own non-discretionary income. Or anyone who expects to win. The most important thing to remember is that the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery is about scholarships, and so far we’ve provided about 65,000.”
This has got to be one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever heard.
First of all, the lottery rolled out ticket vending machines almost two years ago. Even though you have to scan a driver’s license to purchase a ticket, these machines are incapable of preventing minors from playing. All a child has to do is get a driver’s license from an older sibling or friend, or take one from a parent. The very existence of lottery ticket vending machines lends itself to an environment of underage gambling.
Heavy Lottery Players
Baldridge’s next two statements—that they don’t want people buying tickets who can’t afford to or who expect to win—are even easier to debunk. Where would the lottery be without its heavy users (many of whom are poor) or folks who expect to win? It stands to reason that the lottery would be in tough shape from a revenue standpoint if these two demographics didn’t play. That’s why this talking point from the lottery rings hollow. Truth is, they need the people who can’t afford to play and the people who expect to win. Why else would every advertisement for the lottery encourage people to play to win? Also, if the lottery doesn’t want these kinds of people buying tickets, what are they doing to prevent it? Not a thing.
Not Focused on Scholarships
Lastly, let’s address the old line about the lottery being focused on scholarships. We hate to sound like a broken record, but only about 21.8% of the lottery’s net proceeds go to scholarships. In an attempt to begin fixing this problem, we worked with Rep. Ann Clemmer during the 2011 legislative session to amend the Arkansas Constitution and mandate that the lottery must allocate at least 30% of its net proceeds for scholarships. Rep. Clemmer fought hard to get this amendment approved by a legislative committee and referred to the people for a vote, but the lottery swooped in with its lobbying power and defeated it. This should tell you everything you need to know about where the lottery’s priorities truly are.
The Arkansas Lottery continues to rehash old, discredited talking points and invent new twists on why they should be trusted. Let’s not fall victim to lottery rhetoric that sounds good, but ultimately falls flat.