Local News

Lottery Ad Taped at Fayetteville State Questioned

Posted February 5, 2008 4:46 p.m. EST
Updated February 5, 2008 6:47 p.m. EST

— A television commercial for the North Carolina Education Lottery that was taped Tuesday already has drawn criticism from a state lawmaker.

The advertisement features 15 children in a More at Four preschool classroom at Fayetteville State University's Early Childhood Learning Center. Lottery proceeds fund a sizable portion of the program's annual budget.

State Sen. Larry Shaw, D-Cumberland, said the ad exploits black children.

"I think it's immoral to use children to promote gambling," said Shaw, who voted for the lottery in the General Assembly but is opposed to gambling. "They're trying to use black kids to emotionally arouse people to buy tickets."

Both black and white children appear in the ad, which is scheduled to air at the end of the month.

"(Lottery officials) felt Fayetteville would give them the least resistance" about the ad, Shaw said. "They feel Fayetteville is not up to snuff."

State lottery director Tom Shaheen, who speaks in the ad, said there was nothing disrespectful about depicting Fayetteville or the university in the commercial.

"The students of Cumberland County received the fourth-largest amount of lottery dollars in 2007, so we're here. Next time, we're going to be in another community," Shaheen said.

He also said he sees nothing improper about showing children in the ad.

"We think it's part of our responsibility to go out and show people where the money is going," he said.

Parents watched Tuesday as the commercial was produced. Mike Ervin said he was excited to see his daughter in the program.

“I look at it this way: If that’s the way North Carolina has to get some revenue for education, you have to do what you got to do,” Ervin said.

Regardless of the philosophical differences, taping a lottery commercial on the Fayetteville State campus could violate a school policy, officials said.

University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles last May urged all chancellors in the 16-campus UNC system to refrain from entering lottery advertising agreements, which he said could encourage gambling by students.

Fayetteville State officials misinterpreted the policy, thinking it applied only to advertising at athletic events, spokesman Jeff Womble said.

“Of course, they would not purposefully violate a policy issued by Mr. Bowles,” Womble said.

Bowles' chief of staff, Jeffrey Davies, said Tuesday that Fayetteville State acted "inconsistent with the policy" by allowing the taping. But the university won't be penalized for the mistake, he said.