@NCCapitol

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Stam: Lottery ads misleading

Posted October 27, 2014 5:19 p.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2014 5:29 p.m. EDT

— Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, says the North Carolina Education Lottery is using misleading advertising to promote one of its newest games. 

The All or Nothing game allows a player to win by guessing all of the numbers drawn correctly or by picking none of the numbers that show up. 

In advertisements for the game, the lottery shows people playing games such as darts and missing the board entirely with all three darts to illustrate the idea of missing all of the picks.

"The crux of the problem is that the advertisement compares a person not hitting a dart board three consecutive times to that of a person not being able to match numbers with any of the winning lottery numbers," Stam said in a news release. "If I were able to win a darts game by not hitting the bull's-eye three consecutive times, I could easily do so with unerring certainty a million times in a row. I would turn around and throw three darts in the complete opposite direction of a dartboard."

The same principle, he said, doesn't apply to a lottery game. 

"A player cannot purposefully select none of the winning numbers in the lottery game as he or she can purposefully lose a darts game. By comparing a game of skill to a game of chance, the Lottery Commission is falsely claiming that skill can prevail," Stam wrote. "By comparing a game of chance to a game of skill, our lottery commission intentionally tells its customers that there is something they can do to affect the odds. But there is not."

Lottery officials say they're merely illustrating the concept behind the games. 

"The illustrations in the ads create ways to win points in those popular games that are not real ways to win. People bowling don’t get points for gutter balls, and people playing darts don’t get points if they don’t hit the board. We used these examples for illustration only," lottery spokesman Van Denton said in an email. 

"In the All or Nothing lottery game, the odds for winning that top prize of $250,000 by either outcome are 1 in 1.35 million. We publicize those odds in the legal language on the All or Nothing ads," Denton said. "The odds are also available on the lottery’s website and in how to play information and point-of-state materials that accompany the All or Nothing game.

"Lottery games are games of chance. The Education Lottery recommends that anyone who chooses to play the lottery plays for fun and plays with money set aside for entertainment purposes," he said.

Stam has long been a critic of the lottery. This summer, House lawmakers attempted to bridge a budget gap by raising the revenue expected from the state's gambling enterprise. But at the same time, lawmakers would have required more disclaimers in lottery advertising. Both lottery officials and senators lambasted the plan, and eventually the legislature dropped the idea.