Commentary: Beware dangers of government-sponsored gambling

There's no such thing as a good lottery. No circumstances under which it’s OK for a state government to entice its citizens to gamble. The very idea is anathema to what government is supposed to be all about.

In the worst of cases, state governments promote their product with pervasive splashy advertising campaigns that promise huge payoffs. They target poor neighborhoods with the message that gambling is the only way to escape poverty. They suggest that it’s your civic duty — even your duty as a good parent — to play the lottery. They promote (and profit from) gambling addiction by offering instant-gratification through either big-dollar scratch-off “games” or, worse, video gambling options. And the longer the lottery is in operation, the more likely it is to engage in these irresponsible actions, because the novelty wears off, but the demand for the “free” money it provides does not.

The lottery that the government of South Carolina operates has been less bad than others, thanks to a state law that prohibits some of the worst practices and a lottery board and director who respected the law and the political culture of our state well enough to adhere to it. But now, one leg of that stool has been knocked out, with former state Sen. Ernie Passailaigue’s departure as the state’s first lottery director. Whether we maintain our position as one of the less-bad lottery states will depend in large part on whom the board picks as his permanent replacement.

To read the complete editorial, visit thestate.com.