State-Operated Lotteries: The Sleaze Factor

March 21, 2005
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of The Christian Post or its editors.

The business of government is to suppress evil, not to supervise it. Yet the argument often made in favor of state-operated lotteries is that the vice of gambling can be managed and made into something virtuous for the public. Hogwash!!!

There are few matters in life with a greater sleaze factor than the unholy alliance between the gaming industry and government. In fact, state-operated lotteries corrupt government.

Just since the year 2000, Colorado's lottery director resigned under pressure. Minnesota's lottery director committed suicide after scrutiny and tough questions from auditors. Nebraska's lottery head chief was placed on leave during a probe. Oregon's lottery director resigned after an audit showed hundreds of millions of dollars in administrative waste. Florida lottery officials were fired following an investigation revealing they accepted meals and gifts from vendors doing business with the lottery.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quotes Russ Davidson, the former chief financial officer of the Kentucky lottery, saying, "You're dealing with the dirtiest industry I've ever seen in my 30 years of doing business ...."

Then there's GTECH, the world's largest provider of lottery services and gaming equipment. GTECH serves 80 lotteries in 44 countries. Their track record is one episode after another of crooked dealing.

According to an Associated Press article, over a 16-year period, GTECH was the subject of four federal grand jury investigations that led to jail terms for a company official and a lobbyist.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported GTECH's original bid for the Georgia lottery contract came in 50 percent higher than Automated Wagering's bid. After Georgia lottery president Rebecca Paul told GTECH's James David Smith and other officials that their first bid was too high, GTECH reduced its price and Paul agreed to the deal -- even though GTECH's bid was still the highest bid.

Fortune Magazine once reported that former GTECH CEO Guy Snowden and former national sales manager James David Smith "perfected the backroom art of lottery politics: rewarding political friends, annihilating enemies, and crushing the competition ... while in the process making millions."

David Rainey of the Lawrence Journal-Weekly reported that a former lottery worker in Kansas filed a sexual harassment suit against GTECH, claiming she was ordered to dig up dirt on the deputy director of the Kansas lottery in order to make him susceptible to blackmail during negotiations with the company.

On April 12, 1998, a gambling industry analyst proclaimed GTECH's ethical troubles were a thing of the past. On September 18, 1998, the Dallas Morning News reported that GTECH settled a lawsuit brought by former Texas lottery director Nora Linares in which she alleged GTECH hired her boyfriend to gain leverage over her. Less than two years later, on July 7, 2000, the Austin American Statesman reported that GTECH executives were forced to resign over a number issues, including failure to disclose a computer glitch to their clients that caused erroneous payments in millions of lottery transactions in Texas and Great Britain.

Not only do state-operated lotteries cause government to prey on its own people; not only do they often use deceptive advertising; not only do they put government in competition with legitimate business -- but they are riddled with scandal after scandal.

In a July 1999 letter, Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family rightly points out that the gambling industry "pours vast sums into campaign coffers of gambling-friendly politicians." Continuing, he states that "most politicians will dance for anyone who offers them bushels of cash. It's what keeps them in office."

In the same letter, Dobson also notes the most egregious example of "political exploitation occurred when Colorado spent $25,000 on a study to find the best way to get its residents to play the lottery more. They discovered that certain types of people were less likely to play the lottery. Initially, once they were hooked, they remained hooked. Can you imagine state officials contracting with behavioral researchers to figure out how to bilk the citizens who pay their salaries? Something similar occurred in Maryland after officials proposed the state study how to entice people to play the lottery more. As columnist Austin Abercrombie wrote, 'Traditionally, one of the legitimate roles of a republican form of government is to protect its citizens against harm, to promote the general welfare, but state governments seem to be redefining that role to one of how do we separate the sucker from his money?'"

State-operated lotteries produce a stench of moral putrification that reaches the very nostrils of God. I believe God hates lotteries, and so should every God-fearing American.

Today my home state, North Carolina, is the largest state in the Union without a lottery. I shudder as I think about GTECH's team of registered lobbyists intensely working the halls of the North Carolina General Assembly, trying to get lawmakers to approve a so-called "education lottery."

Only last year, North Carolina's U.S. Representative Frank Balance plead guilty to a federal corruption charge for directing $2 million of state money, while he was a state senator, to a nonprofit and using some of the money for his own personal expenses. Such situations are but a pale reflection of the kind of corruption that will constantly plague state government if North Carolina approves a state-operated lottery.

No, I see no virtue in state lotteries at all. I agree with Thomas Jefferson, who once said: "In a world which furnishes so many employments which are useful, so many which are amusing, it is our own fault if we ever know what ennui is, or if we are driven to the miserable resources of gaming, which corrupts our dispositions, and teaches us a habit of hostility against all mankind."

Rev. Mark H. Creech ( is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He gratefully acknowledges Citizens United Against the Lottery for allowing him to use material from its article "A Question of Sleaze." Citizens United Against the Lottery is a coalition of public policy groups working together to prevent a state-operated lottery from coming to North Carolina.