Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Governor Pence Seeks to Stop Gambling Expansion; Private Marketing Firm for Lottery Uses Questionable Tactics to Lure More Players

A couple noteworthy stories on gambling in Indiana.

WTHR reports that Governor Mike Pence is lobbying lawmakers to not approve an expansion of gambling despite competitive pressure from other states:
[Gov. Mike] Pence told reporters Tuesday that he has concerns about the industry's effort to bring the state's riverboat casinos on land, add live table games at the two horse racing tracks and approve portable gambling devices.

Supporters of the new measures sought by Indiana's casino industry say they're necessary to keep pace with new competition from states including Ohio and Illinois. They also say the proposals don't constitute an expansion of gambling.


Gam[bl]ing in Indiana is big business. It may have dropped from third to fourth in the nation in 2012, but it still touts staggering numbers: $500 million in charitable gaming and $2.6 billion in casino gam[bl]ing.

Neighboring states are now threatening those numbers. Legislation before the Indiana General Assembly is an attempt to curb the threat. It is asking lawmakers to allow the state's two racinos in Anderson and Shelbyville to introduce live tables.
Gov. Pence's hopes of holding the line on the ever-expanding reach of the gambling, and its corrosive influence,, is a commendable goal.  However, it is also an ambitious one.   Over the past decade, the gambling industry has flooded the Indiana General Assembly with campaign contributions.  The gambling industry has maybe the most clout of any industry in the State. Gov. Pence may find that achieving the status quo on gambling is far more difficult than getting his proposed 10% tax cut passed.

Meanwhile, the private firm, GTECH, hired late last year to promote the Indiana Lottery has decided to engage in some misleading advertising to lure more people to play.  Indianapolis Star columnist Matt Tully pens a column rightfully criticizing the new advertising tactics:
[W]hile most of us tend to view all over-the-top ad campaigns with a healthy amount of skepticism, there is something uniquely disturbing about the one the lottery’s ad agency is now unveiling. Why? Because in this case it’s our own state that is trying to mislead everyone, and that is guiding at least some Hoosiers into a behavior that isn’t good for them.

The ads also are preying on emotions in a downright despicable way.

The new ad campaign jumps on an innocent tradition: people sitting around with friends or family and talking about what they’d do if they struck it rich with a lottery ticket. Hey, those conversations are fun -- I’ve had plenty of them, most of which center on buying an island and making major investments in the search for a cure for baldness.

But the new lottery ads use those big-dream conversations as the basis of a campaign that tells people the opposite of the longshot truth and essentially encourages them to foolishly consider the lottery as an investment tool. Few people, of course, will ever make serious money playing the lottery; the odds guarantee that most of us will emerge from a lottery transaction as a loser. You just wouldn’t know that based on the new ads, which make the ridiculous case that spending money on gambling is a secure path to financial freedom.

One ad features a man saying he’d use the money to save for his kid’s college education.  Another says he’d use it to fund arts programs. Yet another preys on a deeply painful aspect of many people’s lives by featuring a woman who says she’d use the money for fertilization treatments.

In a press release, the lottery says, “None of the dreams we've heard would be possible without purchasing a ticket from one of our valued retailers.”

Really? Is that the message we’re hearing from the state? The only way to send your kid to college, or to have a baby, or to have a bit of financial security, or to support nonprofit programs, is by playing the lottery? That message is as reckless as it is untrue.

It’s baloney. It’s actually something worse and smellier. But let’s keep it clean here.

The bottom-line goal of the campaign, of course, is to convince more people to play the lottery, which pours hundreds of millions of dollars into state coffers. Too many people choose not to gamble, and that bugs the state employees who run the lottery and the state leaders who rely on the revenue it provides. But isn’t it worth stepping back and asking whether the state-owned lottery must be an entity where profit is fully maximized, where every potential customer is lured in, and where everything is done to make sure every dollar is grabbed?
I would encourage people to read the Tully column in full as he proceeds to slice and dice up even more these questionable tactics.  It's the best thing he's written in years.


Gary R. Welsh said...

As usual, Tully and the Star fail to report on the real GTECH scandal.

Pete Boggs said...

It's telling that government seeks to enrich itself at various troughs of vice while punishing virtue.

Downtown Indy said...

But lotteries are what the '47%' use for a tax bill.

Paul K. Ogden said...

True, Gary. I found it very odd that Tully didn't even mention the name "GTECH."

Paul K. Ogden said...

DI, that's pretty funny...and a lot of truth to it.

Pete Boggs said...

Gambling has been a recent problem for public officials in other states including the Lt. Governor or Florida who resigned today.


Unigov said...

I don't share the concern about the lottery...yes, it's primarily a tax on the poor, but about 2/3 of the gross goes to play winners, which is more than I thought. It also should be viewed vs the pre-lottery forms of illegal gambling, eg, the numbers rackets...that was one of the justifications for starting it, that the poor are gonna play the numbers anyway. Oddly enough the city of Indy still has laws making any kind of numbers game illegal, which appears to conflict with the state lottery, as though it matters...just a funny vestigial remain.

The most regressive (hits the poor the hardest) tax in place is that on tobacco.

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