Remember the weekend they drew the winning number for that $11 million Lotto jackpot? It was an especially bad one for a woman we'll call Iris.
Her father was a drug addict bookmaker; her mother is still hooked on bingo games. Since her inner-city Baltimore childhood, Iris has been playing poker and betting on horses. But whether she went to the track or found a game of cards, she always played the lottery, betting between $30 and $100 a day for as long as she can remember.
She smiles when she hears that the lottery isn't supposed to be addictive because it hasn't the pace of the horses or casino games. She found her own way to inject the action. She would invariably jump into line and buy her tickets at the last possible minute before the daily numbers were selected on television. It ,, was almost like the challenge of the track where you see people rushing to the windows at the last second.
She liked the three-digit and four-digit games, betting from a set list of numbers -- birthdays, the number of the highway she took to work each day, numbers plucked from the endless, tortured lottery dreams that gave her no rest.
Two years ago her she had run up gambling debts of $50,000 and she filed for bankruptcy, although it didn't stop her from quickly going another $20,000 in the hole with new gambling losses. But it did convince her to enter Taylor Manor Hospital's program for compulsive gamblers. Combined with her enrollment Gambler's Anonymous, Iris felt she was on the road to recovery.
She got out of the hospital, though, while the second highest jackpot in the eight-year history of the Maryland Lottery's Lotto game was being heavily promoted on radio and television. That, combined with the Preakness Stakes race being run the same day at Pimlico Race Course, nearly wrecked it for her.
"I was getting urges, believe me," she says, sitting at a picnic table on the grounds of Taylor Manor in Ellicott City. "It was on my mind all day long. I love to go to the track, and at GA they tell you not to tempt yourself. That was the hardest part about the lottery. Every store I went in there was a lottery machine. Or an ad in great big letters: LOTTO. PLAY HERE. I kept telephoning GA. They said don't go into stores with lottery machines. But how many stores don't have them? I just wanted to win that $11 million. If I'd won I would probably have bought cars and houses for my family but I'd have $10 million left and it would be like OD'ing. I'd gamble it away. It's the action. A way of punishing yourself." MEANWHILE, THE BIG GUY in the one piece, top-to-bottom blue coveralls with "Dave" written in red script above the heart sits uncomfortably on a tiny chair in the claims office of the Maryland lottery agency. In his hands he holds a clipboard, a ballpoint pen and, of course, his tickets.
No millionaire here, just the air of a few hundred bucks. But, hey, a winner's a winner.
"Why do I play the lottery?" He chuckles, shaking his head. "Whenever people ask me that I say, 'Why do people smoke cigarettes? Why do people drink?' I don't drink and I don't smoke. I work 75 hours a week and I play the lottery every day. I play Pick 3 and Pick 4 and Lotto. I play the same numbers every day. Why not? The lottery don't have no memory. I win about once a month. Why do I play? Because I can't wait to get home and find out 'Did I hit tonight?' "
He pauses to scribble some numbers on his claim form. He looks up.
"To me it's like a hobby."
It's like a hobby.
Without a doubt, somewhere down the hallway and around a dozen or so corners of the maze of these lottery offices in the northern end of the Reisterstown Road Plaza, Marty Goldman is cocking his ear and smiling.
The one-time marketing director of Robert Irsay's Baltimore Colts, Mr. Goldman left the banking business a year ago to take over the marketing of the state's lottery. Until then he knew nothing of the lottery business, had hardly even played the game himself. The first thing he did was go down to the claims office and talk to players like Dave.
"And once I talked to the players," he grins, "I saw that's what the lottery really is. A mode of entertainment. I've had people tell me, 'If I win, this is what I'm going to do.' From a marketing perspective that's great stuff. When they buy the ticket they are instantly dreaming. And I try to market that specifically."
That he's been successful is evident in the numbers. Lottery ticket sales have increased by about 4 percent in the first few months of this fiscal year. In a year rocked by recession and budget shortfalls, not many other departments can claim that kind of an increase.
Combined with the bouncy nature of the current lottery promotion, things indeed look fine at the agency's headquarters in the Reisterstown Road Plaza. Here they note that the lottery takes a bite out of illegal gambling and is an efficient form of revenue generation. They suggest that if the lottery hurts anyone, it is a small segment of the population and those hurts are offset by a vast amount of public good. The state's 40 percent take from lottery wagers -- $350 million last year -- goes directly into the general fund. William F. Rochford, the former deputy police commissioner in Baltimore and the lottery director since 1987, calls it "the largest charitable organization in the state."
But not everyone sees it that way.
A few months ago a Baltimore minister, the Rev. Clifford M. Johnson of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, rejected a Lotto winner's intended donation of funds to his church, saying that the lottery "takes advantage of the poor." Other critics charge that the lottery instills false hope in unsophisticated segments of society and undermines traditional values such as self-reliance and education as paths to success. They argue that the number of people adversely affected by lotteries is not small and that people who never would have considered gambling are seduced by glamorous advertising appeals and often develop addictions.
But those arguments, so far, have not been winners. "Lotteries have tendencies to have highly paid lobbyists behind them," says Dr. Valerie Lorenz, director of Baltimore's National Center for Pathological Gambling. "The mental health industry doesn't have that kind of money."
Speaking of money, it was less than 30 years ago that the idea of drawing revenue from a government-sponsored lottery seemed taboo. It became untaboo because states like New Hampshire and Massachusetts started raking in millions with its lotteries. Now, among the 32 states and District of Columbia with a lottery, that revenue is an essential part of budgeting. As Delegate Clarence Davis, D-Baltimore, a frequent critic of the lottery says, "Where else are they gonna get $350 million?"
Iris, the recovering gambler, puts it another way. "They make it sound like that will be the end of all your problems," she says. "Realistically, you don't believe it unless you're living in a dream world."
NOT LONG AFTER HE took over as marketing director, Marty Goldman asked the lottery's advertising firm to dream up a new campaign that stressed entertainment. Allan Charles of Trahan Burden & Charles Inc., which has had the lucrative lottery account (a $9 million budget in 1991) since 1983, remembered earlier ad campaigns that "only appealed to people who were gamblers." Those were clearly aimed at the poor, he says. " 'Play today, cash tonight.' It was a very low-end kind of approach."
Over a six-month period Mr. Charles and his staff considered a dozen new slogans and boiled them down to three possibles: "Just Say Play," "We Keep Maryland Smiling," and "It Could be You." It was the last, his own invention, says Mr. Charles, that became the phrase heard round the state in radio and TV jingles that linger long after the actual winning number has proven that it probably won't be you.
"Let's say you're just walking along
With a ticket in your pocket
The next day you could be a millionaire
With your own personal moon rocket
Everybody's got a dream
And everyday somebody's dream comes true
The Maryland Lottery
It could be you."
"If you think about it," says Mr. Charles, "it's a very honest advertising line. I make no bones about it. We say, 'It could be you.' We're not saying, 'It's gonna be you.' If a hospital ran this kind of ad it would say, 'Maybe you'll be OK.' "
More than one critic, though, has complained that the going price for a moon rocket is considerably more than a million dollars -- or the $50,000, less taxes, per year for 20 years that a million-dollar prize actually brings.
The Heartland Institute, a non-partisan Chicago think tank specializing in researching issues of state and local interest, recently published a blistering critique of government-sponsored lotteries nationwide. It charged that ads that claim to make winners "millionaires" are misleading because of the 20-year annuity practice. It compares the practice to the kind of misrepresentations finance companies used to aim at the unsophisticated that led Congress to adopt the Truth-in-Lending Law.
None of which fazes William F. Rochford, the lottery agency's director.
"To give away 1 million in cash you'd only realize $600,000 with taxes," he says. "So to make it a million you'd have to win two million. Then you talk about people not knowing how to handle their money. They might blow it all. But if they get an annuity over 20 years, it gives them something to think about."
He also dismisses the notion that odds of winning the Lotto (at 14 million to 1, it is six times more likely that a player will be struck by lightning than win) are too high.
"I don't think folks care about odds," he says. "They like to see jackpots. The odds are only for the losers."
And anyway, says Mr. Charles, such talk misses the point.
"We are trying in our ads to make the lottery an entertainment vehicle, a fun-and-game thing," he says. "My mother, who is 68, plays the lottery every week. In her pocketbook every week is a piece of a dream. What's wrong with having a dream? To me a dream is better than no dream. It's a little hope. I see that as the fun part of it. For $1 you got a ticket in your pocket. A piece of the American dream. In the meantime, that dollar is going to a good cause."
Adds Mr. Rochford, "Most people who play, play out of an entertainment sense. It's like throwing a coin in a fountain. Your chance of getting a million is slim, but somebody wins every day. . . . A person becomes a millionaire who comes out of the lower-income bracket -- no way else would they reach that fiscal position."
Such arguments leave critics cold.
"The arrogance of the lottery!" says Dr. Lorenz, at the National Center for Pathological Gambling. "They make the assumption that we want to be instant millionaires, that that should be a goal in life. The lottery is changing our values. Gambling was once associated with crime. Gambling was seen as criminal, a sign of weakness. It was something that said, 'Let me take from you' instead of sharing. We still look to state government to set the tone of conduct and the government says, 'Go out and gamble.' "
Dr. Lorenz is the co-chair of the Maryland Task Force on Gambling Addiction, which recently completed a state-funded survey on gambling addiction in Maryland. Her center also operates a state-funded hot line for people with gambling problems. Last year, one in five callers to the hot line listed lotteries as their first preference in gambling. One in four callers who said they had legal problems stemming from their gambling debts listed the lottery as their primary game.
Dr. Lorenz estimates there are 50,000 compulsive gamblers in Maryland and another 80,000 problem gamblers, all of whom owe a combined $4 billion in gambling debts. Among them are many addicted solely to the lottery, she says, but though that number is not as large as those addicted to sports betting, track betting and casino games, it's the broader message that hurts.
"The lottery promotes gambling as an acceptable activity," she says. "It promotes all forms of gambling. All state lotteries do this. They promote gambling per se. Gambling, I predict, will become a national tragedy. All we see now is the glitter, the glitz, the million-dollar wins. But do you realize how many losers you have to have to make one winner?"
While the state offers no such breakdowns, an estimated 80 million people have placed Lotto bets since that game was introduced in 1983. The state now sends annual payments to 450 winners.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch, noted for "Parting the Waters," a biography of the late Martin Luther King Jr., has also researched and written about state lotteries. Writing in the January, 1990 issue of the New England Monthly, he charged that lottery ads are aimed at "an atomized society of trapped people bent upon avenging themselves through fantasy pleasures. The role models conjure up limousines, servants, diamonds and getaways to Paris and Spain. They never speak of self-improvement, families or neighborhoods, much less of contributions to the common good. Next to them, the robber barons were models of public spirit."
Mr. Branch says, "You can't square government lotteries with Jeffersonian and Madisonian theory of the purpose of government. That was to foster self-government and come together as citizens for mutual betterment -- to bring out the best in one another. You can't reconcile that with ads urging people basically not to rely on themselves, to give up on their future, to ignore reality. And that the best hope of social mobility for them is blind, one in a million luck."
He even compares lottery hucksters with the lowest of criminals. "Basically the message state government offers to its own citizens," he says, "is pretty much the same message a drug dealer offers on the street corner: 'Don't worry about going to work. You can't get out of the ghetto, your only hope is to ignore reality and work, to hock all and take a flier on a dream, on stuff that makes you feel good."
"I DON'T THINK THE IDEA OF A dream is the motive for people playing," says Delegate Howard "Pete" Rawlings, D-Baltimore. "That only applies to Lotto. Games like Pick 3 and Pick 4 are efforts by people to spend as little money as they can to gain a large amount of money. That's gambling pure and simple. The state doesn't want to call it gambling, but a spade is a spade is a spade."
The word "lottery" doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. To middle and upper classes, it often means the Lotto game, which offers prizes of a $1 million or more and has drawings now on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Players spend $1 and pick 6 numbers or have them randomly selected by a computer.
But last year in Maryland -- a typical year -- only 20 percent of the gross sales of $812 million came from Lotto wagers. Fifty percent of all sales came from the simple Pick 3 game, a daily game whose maximum payout is $500 per $1 ticket. The popularity of this type of game in low-income neighborhoods dates to pre-lottery days when illegal numbers rackets thrived on income from bettors hoping to match three numbers taken from the pari-mutuel receipts at a certain race track on that day.
The backers of the illegal games used a complicated formula to determine which digits in the sequence they would use that day. Bettors would check the newspaper report of the pari-mutuel "handle" for the designated track and begin computing the winning numbers. It was a complicated system that often left bettors frustrated, especially if the backers announced that they had changed the racetrack at the last minute from Pimlico to Aqueduct.
"It goes way back," says Mr. Rawlings, who was raised in the Edgar Allan Poe housing projects in West Baltimore. "When I was kid, you'd say, 'Here comes the numbers man.' He was a nice gentleman. He would go to each person's house. Everyone in the community knew who he was. I remember when my parents hit. The numbers man came and he brought cash. There was all this money all over the bed. If you made a hit it was $200 to $500. Back then, that was big money. The thing that blew my mind, he would walk into the community with his pockets stuffed full of money, but no one dared touch him."
In fact, numbers writers were an integral part of ghetto communities, says Mr. Davis. "They were like social workers who helped people when they had a death in their family, when people didn't have food. They would open a corner grocery store another business. They would function as bankers. They were vital to our community because people could never get the same services from banks that other communities got. You couldn't argue with their existence. I've seen families burned out of homes and I've seen number writers come to their aid. They weren't greedy. You always depended on them. Every community I've ever lived in had a numbers writer."
Mr. Rochford, the lottery agency's director, tempers that image with the argument that illegal gambling revenue, traditionally, "goes to finance drug deals. And business endeavors. That put the law-abiding businessman at a disadvantage." The state, he says, "realized they were not making headway in stopping it from happening. The money is gonna be out there, people will play. It's a given."
It was then, he says, that the state legislature "decided to legalize the operation, hoping that perhaps the state could control that money and make a distribution back to the community in more constructive ways."
But it is difficult on both accounts to prove that that ideal has been realized.
First of all, illegal numbers betting has not been hurt at all by the lottery -- this according to Sgt. George Klein, an 11-year veteran of the city's vice squad.
"There is a tremendous amount of money being bet on the street," in illegal games, he says. "It would be safe to say, in the Baltimore metro area, hundreds of thousands are wagered on a daily basis. And that is a conservative figure." Even conservatively, at $200,000 a day that comes to $73 million a year wagered illegally just in Baltimore.
What the lottery did, says Sergeant Klein, was make the illegal game more credible. Instead of relying on the complicated formula taken from the daily handles of racetracks, illegal numbers runners now use the same numbers the lottery uses, verifying their results each night as they are drawn on television. No more confusion among bettors as to which racetrack was being used in that day's bets.
Another convenience for the illegal numbers operator is the concept of layoff bets. Under the old illegal system if a numbers backer saw that large bets had been placed on one number, he knew he could go bankrupt if that number hit. So he placed bets on the same number with larger operators, protecting his interests but also contributing to a competitor.
Now, illegal numbers people looking for layoff bets "simply go and buy lottery tickets," betting the same numbers heavily wagered by their customers, says Sergeant Klein. "If the number comes in, you get a good chunk of change from the state. Laying off happens every day. Laying off is a big moneymaker."
Mr. Rochford dismisses this, saying, "When a person lays off he just supports the state." Even so, because the illegal game offers a payoff of 600 to 1 and takes telephone bets and offers weekly credit to its players, many people prefer it to the state game, says Sergeant Klein.
The second difficulty with proving the ideal reasoning behind the lottery is determining whether the communities whose members bet the most get back an equal amount of lottery revenues. Even lottery critics are divided. Robert Linowes, the chairman of the celebrated and controversial taxation review panel that bore his name -- the panel labeled lotteries as regressive burdens on the poor -- doesn't think there is inequitable distribution. Nor does Mr. Rawlings. Mr. Davis, though, disagrees.
"Hey, man, that money goes into the general fund. When it comes back out, you don't know where it goes. I think the people who play the lottery never get their fair share. If they did the city would not be begging every year."
What is easier to pin down is that the Maryland lottery -- as do most state lotteries -- places its heaviest concentrations of ticket terminals in low-income areas where people are most likely to play games like Pick 3 and Pick 4. (The two games combined represent $568 million, or 70 percent of all of last year's lottery wagers.)
The report of the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, for instance, noted that Baltimore city had 396 lottery outlets, or 32 percent of the state's total, compared to 101 terminals in the state's most affluent area, Montgomery County, representing 8 percent of the state's total. In Delaware, it noted, the highest income areas had no lottery terminals at all, but the lowest income areas had one machine for every 2,000 people.
The report, prepared by philosophy professor Robert Allen Cooke of DePaul University and Sandeep Mangalmurti, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, also noted that the poorest people spend a larger fraction of their income on lotteries than do the most affluent. This is the real issue, charge critics like Montgomery County attorney Robert Linowes.
"The view of the [Linowes] commission was that they thought the lottery was regressive and had a tendency to more generally affect the poor," he says. "It appealed to the poor and was an enticement. This is not the desirable way to go. We should temper the promotion. You can tax food and make a lot of money too, but the question is who's paying for it. Experience indicates the poor have the greatest tendency to use the lottery than the more affluent. I would hope that those dreams don't turn into nightmares. When you dream, you have good and bad dreams. When you use your resources to try to chase a dream and your resources are totally utilized, then you have a nightmare."
BUT CAN THAT NIGHTMARE BE ACcessed simply by overplaying the lottery? Aren't the people with pathological gambling problems addicted to things like horse racing and basketball point spreads?
For most people, says Joanna Franklin of Taylor Manor Hospital, gambling is fun and entertainment. "A little bit of a thrill," she says. "Just a way to pass the time. For 95 percent of the population that's all gambling means."
For the other 5 percent it's a very serious problem. Ms. Franklin, who directs the training element of the Taylor Manor program for gambling addicts, notes that problem gamblers, much like problem drinkers, suffer from low self-esteem. They use their preferred form of escape as a hedge against depression.
Compulsive gambling has been recognized as a specific psychiatric disorder for only about 11 years. Early on, it was assumed by professionals that only the high intensity action of things like sports betting and casino games would satisfy a gambler's addiction. Something as tame as a lottery, it was widely held, would have little appeal to a compulsive gambler.
"The lottery," says director Rochford, "doesn't have quite the effect that some other forms of gambling do. It doesn't provide the kind of fast action that comes with other forms of gambling. I really haven't heard of people coming and saying, 'I have a terrible compulsion to lose everything playing the lottery.' "
His marketing director, Mr. Goldman, shares a similar view.
"If one looks at what a problem gambler is all about, they've started out with big hits. The lottery doesn't have the best odds, and one would expect compulsive gamblers to favor other forms of gambling to be involved in."
But as more attention has been paid to compulsive gambling, says Ms. Franklin, and more research has been funded, new ideas have emerged on what makes a compulsive gambler gamble. The result: lotteries are no longer viewed as an innocent game.
"We found a whole bunch of folks with problems with the lottery," she says. "We found out a whole cross section that had been overlooked: women, teens, retired people, batches of them very drawn to the lottery."
Compulsive gamblers, she says, are drawn more to the idea of action than to the need to win. Action begins the moment a player begins to plan a bet and ends when the outcome of a bet has been determined. Money, says Ms. Franklin, becomes the means of keeping the action cycle going and the process acts as a stimulant and tranquilizer at the same time.
"A lot don't care if they win," she says. "They just want to play, want to be away from reality. The lottery will appeal to a number of people who have this disorder. They will not deal with logic. They have such a pain inside, they choose to hurt themselves to get away from the pain a little bit. They think if they win they will have attention, love, respect. But like any drug, it's never enough. It really doesn't fix any of the problems."
While the lottery is still not one of the top four forms of betting cited in surveys of compulsive gamblers (the top four: sports betting, track betting, stock market playing, casino gambling), Ms. Franklin says its ranking "goes up on the list every year, with more and more people calling hot lines with lottery problems. The state is trying to sell the illusion of happiness. Our people are so drawn by that illusion of success. They've got to have success and they use the lottery as a way to get that. Absolutely, no question there are lottery addicts, hundreds and thousands of them nationwide."
Mr. Rochford remains skeptical.
"I'm sure there are compulsive lottery players, but not in great numbers," he says. "I think everything has a side effect. Look at the stock market. That has a side effect. And horse racing. They all have side effects. Any endeavor has its side effects. I can't think of one thing that doesn't have a negative side effect. Nuclear fuel. It does a great deal of good but if the safety net is not taken care of, you have another Chernobyl."
But it's the very lack of a safety net beneath the lottery that has several of its foes most upset.
"I believe the state has a moral responsibility to make people whole who become victims of gambling," says Mr. Rawlings. "Gambling wrenches almost an individual's soul until they lose long-term friendships, property and jobs. They're alone and devastated, out in the world. And when they're alone, there's little resources to make them whole again. The state turns its back on its responsibility in that regard. We've done very little in terms of trying to help them. One year we gave $10,000 to Dr. Lorenz to run a hot line. That is a pittance when you consider the lottery's advertising budget is in the multimillions."
In fact, that toll-free 800 number hot line, designed as a national call-in number and run by Dr. Lorenz's National Center for Pathological Gambling, was swamped with more than 11,000 erroneous calls last year. The task force report on gambling addiction suggests that the warning label concerning gambling problems -- placed on the back of lottery tickets under a bill sponsored by Mr. Rawlings -- is worded so that bettors actually think they can call the number to see if they had won. It reads: "Compulsive gambling is a treatable illness. For assistance call 1-800-332-0402."
This past year, a bill co-sponsored by Mr. Davis calling for funds to establish a state advisory commission on gambling addiction was defeated in the Senate after passing in the House. To fund the commission, says Ms. Franklin, who testified for the bill, "We asked the lottery agency for 5 percent of their ad budget. They laughed us out of their office. They said if sales go down and revenues go down [because of the bill] we can't have that."
That bill will be introduced again next session, says Mr. Davis, seeking funding through one-half of 1 percent of unclaimed lottery winnings -- about $375,000. A similar measure is being planned for next session by Mr. Rawlings and Delegate Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's County, another area with a high constituency of low-income residents.
In the meantime, the task force report prepared by Dr. Lorenz and a panel of mental health volunteers, including Ms. Franklin, calls for more education of children regarding gambling, the training of all licensed state counselors in gambling treatment, a more vigorous advertising program by the lottery agency aimed at warnings about gambling, and the creation of a permanent commission on gambling.
"I've known many people hooked on gambling," says Mr. Davis. "Every family has them. Some people have destroyed their families. The rent is not always paid. They keep hoping for that big hit and they get further behind. It creates tension in a family. And if you put commercials out, then it becomes part of the pop culture. There's one term everyone uses: 'You got to pay to play.' You hear it all the time. Those commercials work. You can't go through this community one day without hearing someone say it: 'You got to pay to play.' Some people spend $20 a day on a number, seven days a week. Can you imagine that? If you take that money and put it in the bank what would you have at the end of the year? No, it's not recreation. For some it may be, but for 70-80 percent they are addicted to the lottery."
LOTTERIES HAVE BEEN AROUND IN America since 1699, according to historian Taylor Branch. They flourished in the 19th century but were banned by Congress after several scandals involving corruption among the private firms hired by states to run them. In the mid-1960s, New Hampshire became the first state in the 20th century to adopt a lottery; a decade later Congress had lifted the laws preventing advertising of lottery information. That cleared the way for Lotto mania to sweep the nation -- Maryland started its Lotto game in 1983 -- but Mr. Branch sees the current decade as one in which lotteries are "entering a sour stage."
"The problem is they are not making as much money as they were a few years ago," he says. "There seems to be a downward revenue spiral. States that relied on the lottery get mad and want them to do more."
While he predicts that states will come under increasing pressure to privatize their games, lottery chief Rochford says he believes the state should maintain control for the same reasons Mr. Branch opposes privatization: the possibility of corruption.
"It's a powerful tool to take and make a monopoly and not control it," he says. "We need all the checks and balances we can get."
In the meantime, figures released by the Maryland lottery show overall sales have increased slightly in the past nine months, though officials admit that Lotto is declining nationwide and they continue to look for more games that will appeal to a broader segment of the public. They are using sophisticated research techniques, says Mr. Goldman, to design a new game that is exactly what players want. So far they think it's a game that delivers more cash upfront -- a reason they've adopted the Winner Take All game, though they have been disappointed thus far in its success.
While lottery officials are proud that their costs of operating are only 3 percent of their revenues, Mr. Branch says the figure -- computing to about $24 million -- shows the biggest flaw of all in lotteries.
"Of every dollar sent in with the purchase of a lottery ticket," he wrote in New England Monthly, "forty to fifty cents is left after distribution of prize money, and another dime is siphoned off to ++ advertising gurus (and sales agents). . . . To collect a dollar of revenue through this sieve, a state spends twenty five times what it would by general taxation."
He adds, "You are talking about an exploitive form of gambling married to a grossly inefficient form of taxation."
That's the basis, he says, for what he calls the "natural instability" in a lottery.
"People are trying to have it both ways," he says. "They are trying to offer something good for people, but they offer it at terrible odds. They are offering a cheap way to raise taxes but with a catastrophically inefficient way to raise them. Lotteries are being squeezed by legislatures that want taxes and by bettors who keep resenting the bad odds. The only way to keep pumping money in is to promise bigger prizes, which just lengthens the odds and makes it impossible to win. It builds in frustration. Basically you have a tug of war where both sides are trying to get something that is not there out of the same pot."
Again, at lottery headquarters, where plans are under way for super modern ticketing terminals, new-look tickets and an endless supply of new scratch-off games, Mr. Rochford is optimistic.
"There's a lot of room for growth," he says, "primarily among people of the upper salary category who are embarrassed to ask a clerk how to play. So they don't play. You'd be surprised at the number of people who won't go in and ask for fear of looking foolish. So to be successful we have to find a way to get the message across to these folks."
Mr. Rawlings thinks the message is clear enough.
"The state has made the game convenient," he says. "They have eliminated the sense of moral consequences by labeling the game as entertainment. They refuse to believe it's gambling. They paint rosy pictures and I think they believe it. They have seduced themselves into believing the lottery has no adverse consequences. I think the state has become addicted to the lottery and gambling."