Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina's lottery could keep "education" in its official name but would face restrictions on advertising and more disclosure requirements under a bill heard by the House Judiciary C Committee Wednesday.
Sponsors of the bill say they still have more work to do on the measure, so the committee did not vote on the measure. It will be back on the committee calendar next week.
However, Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, the bill's lead sponsor, said that it would cost $6 million to remove "education" from the North Carolina Education Lottery.
Lottery Director Alice Garland said the actual cost would be closer to $8 million by the time in-store signage was replaced and computers were reprogrammed to print the new name on tickets.
"There's almost no piece of our business that doesn't involve our name," Garland said.
The measure would keep the lottery from advertising at high school and college athletic events, and it would stop the lottery from advertising that an accountant was on hand to oversee drawings. That notice, Stam said, gives the impression that the lottery is a fair deal.
"It's not on the up-and-up. The whole thing is a scam," he said. "You do much better with the mafia."
The bill also would direct the University of North Carolina system to develop lesson plans for public high schools to explain probabilities and odds of lottery winnings.
Lottery boosters say more restrictions could reduce ticket sales and net proceeds for education, which exceeded $450 million last year.
But the bill has the backing of some lawmakers who voted to create the state-run gambling enterprise in the first place.
"I don't believe that it is any longer the North Carolina Education Lottery," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland.
He said the public and local officials should not be deceived into thinking the lottery takes care of all education funding problems, and he said he has an increasing uneasiness with using a gambling enterprise to fund education.
"Is this really the way we want to be doing that?" he asked.
Garland said that the bill would still present some problems for the lottery. For example, Stam's bill would require the lottery disclose not just the value of a Mega Millions or Power Ball prize paid out over 20 years but the value of that prize if taken as a lump sum.
For most of the lottery's advertising, Garland said, that wouldn't be a problem, but billboards that display the prizes are run by a national vendor.
"No other state does this," she said. The state would have to figure out how to get the additional information to billboards. She added that some billboards can't handle the weight of the prize display systems already, so adding a second set of "number boxes" would cut off more billboards from lottery advertising.
Rep. Henry "Mickey" Michaux, D-Durham, asked Stam why he didn't just move to get rid of the lottery rather than offering it a death by a thousand cuts.
"Do you really think the people in North Carolina are dumb?" Michaux asked Stam.
The bill, Michaux said, was attempting to regulate people's behavior. He said that lottery players know what they're doing.
"I think the people of North Carolina are like the people of Lake Wobegon – they're all above average," Stam said. That said, he added, "Even a smart person given false information will act in a different way."