Commentary: Spanish lottery ads conflict with law

This editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer.

The State Lottery Commission wants to drag North Carolina even deeper into the gaming muck by pushing lottery tickets specifically on Latinos. That's wrong.

The chief reason? The lottery law prohibits targeting specific groups with advertising – and with good cause. Yet unless someone on the commission develops a moral conscience or somebody with clout says "Enough! Stop!" the state may be headed in that direction.

How about it, Gov. Mike Easley? Governor-elect Bev Perdue? Now would be a good time to step up and put a stop to this unseemly plotting before it goes any further.

Tom Shaheen, the lottery's executive director, says the state is missing out on dollars because some 200 of the 5,900 retailers that sell lottery tickets are in communities where at least half the people don't speak English. He wants to work up radio and print ads in Spanish, so those folks can get in on the fun. The ads would promote specific games or tickets.

First, Shaheen's crew will have to get around this edict, written clearly in the state lottery law: "No advertising may intentionally target specific groups or economic classes."

Why is that clause there? Think exploitation. Think decency. A lottery is state-sanctioned gambling dressed in Sunday clothes. It preys on people who can least afford to lose their money, and it encourages gaming addiction. We need rules that keep manipulative advertising from suckering vulnerable populations, whether it's senior citizens or the poor.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Charlotte Observer.