Local News

Senate Lottery Committee Focuses On Gambling Addiction, Crime

Posted May 11, 2005 8:18 a.m. EDT

— A state Senate committee on a proposed lottery heard testimony Wednesday on what a numbers game could cost North Carolina in law enforcement and programs to help gambling addicts.

Witnesses told the committee that most states with lotteries have had relatively little trouble with related crimes. They also said the cost of aid programs varies widely, with some depending on a percentage of lottery proceeds.

The House-passed bill creating a lottery calls for programs to address problem gamblers. The Senate budget proposal passed last week, however, contains no funding for such programs.

"I think the question of increased criminal activity, the question of whether or not you create compulsive gamblers, really is something that we need to think about in terms of putting a lottery in place in North Carolina and what can you do about those sort of things, or are those things just by-products that you just accept," said Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger.

The director of Alcohol Law Enforcement, Mike Roberston, said the temptation of winning a large sum of money would not only lead to ticket sales, but also crime by convenience store clerks.

"There would be the temptation of taking that lottery scratch ticket and trying to beat the system by using one ticket to beat the next ticket, and at the end of the day, you don't have enough to pay for the tickets," Robertson said.

He also said that the 77 field agents on his staff would not be enough to police the predicted 5,000 lottery outlets across the state.

"We would definitely need a staff increase to handle the lottery situation," Robertson told the Senate committee. He said the agency would need $3 million the first year and $1.5 million afterward to hire 32 more agents and support staff.

Although the Senate's budget has already been approved, committee Chairman Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, said he expects the money to be added as the House drafts its budget proposal and the spending plans are reconciled.

"I think that should be included, and I'm sorry I didn't put it in there, but we got in a rush and that was left out," Rand said.

Opponents said increased law enforcement and help for compulsive gamblers are a step in the right direction, but not enough to change their minds about the proposed lottery.

"If given an opportunity to vote up or down on a lottery, my vote would be no," Berger said.

There are two approaches to the lottery going on at once. It is already in the Senate's budget, which is being considered by the House. At the same time, senators are discussing the House lottery bill separately.

Rand said either way, provisions like the ones discussed Wednesday will probably be added.