GREENVILLE, S.C. (BP)–Asserting that a state lottery is bad morality, bad social justice, bad government, bad economics and bad education, the Baptist editor who helped lead Alabama citizens to vote down a lottery initiative in November urged South Carolinians to follow their lead next November — for the sake of their children.
“It’s going to be a long fight; it’s going to be a hard fight; it’s going to be an emotional and perhaps even bitter fight,” Bob Terry began. “But it is an important fight because what this is about is the role of state-sponsored gambling in the future of South Carolina.
“The enemies that you will face will try to intimidate you,” Terry told the 70 people gathered for an anti-lottery rally at Reedy River Baptist Church, Greenville, Nov. 30. The rally was co-sponsored by The Baptist Courier state newsjournal and First Foundations Inc., a nonprofit organization founded by North Greenville College professor Dick Jensen.
“Some will say you’re anti-education,” Terry observed. “But this vote is not about education. This vote is about state-sponsored gambling.”
Terry stressed that Baptists and other lottery foes in Alabama tried very hard to say, “Yes, our schools need help, but the way to help is not with a quick fix, public relations-designed scheme. We need something that’s true, genuine and lasting.”
Charging the gambling industry with starting the fight by wanting to change the state’s culture and moral values, Terry challenged, “They’re going to succeed, unless you and others like you stand up and say, ‘No!'”
Observing that four major lottery companies campaigned in Alabama for more than a decade, trying to convince legislators of the need for a lottery, Terry maintained that the real objective was to create a market for their products and services. “Had Alabama adopted a lottery, then there would have been contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars for these folks to compete for,” he said.
“This is not about education,” he stressed again. “This is about private gain.”
Terry encouraged lottery opponents to concentrate initially on defining the terms gambling and gaming. “A lot of people want to say what we’re really dealing with here is some kind of innocent activity,” he said.
“Don’t get caught in that trap,” Terry admonished. “We’re talking about lottery gambling, pure and simple. This is not an innocent kind of activity; this is gambling.”
Acknowledging there are lotteries in a majority of states, Terry observed that every lottery, except one, is associated with earmarked funds for particular causes, ranging from senior citizens, environmental programs and prison construction to public transportation and education.
“Are you for social programs?” he asked. “I am for all of these, aren’t you?”
The lottery industry has taken polls to determine the popular cause in an area and has used that information to promote itself, Terry noted.
“South Carolina needs help in education, so let’s talk about helping public schools, let’s talk about higher education,” he role-played. “Let’s not talk about what the real issue is: lottery gambling.
“Don’t be trapped by the wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he urged. “Help the people see the real issue.
“The issue is not schools,” Terry reiterated. “The issue which you face in South Carolina, which we faced in Alabama, is, shall the state engage in state-sponsored gambling?
“The question is, shall the state as a part of the social policy of South Carolina become nothing more than a sideshow huckster, trying to fleece the people from their hard-earned pay? Shall the state promote the idea of trusting luck over hard work? Shall the state promote the idea of get-rich-quick fixes over responsible savings?
“Because the lottery is so bad, almost everybody can find a reason to oppose it,” Terry said, observing that not only denominations with differing theologies can find common ground, but also even those who don’t attend church can find points of agreement about the lottery’s negative social influences.
“It’s covetousness,” Terry concluded about the lottery. “You can’t love your brother and want him to lose so you can win.”
Early polls suggested 65 percent of Alabama citizens favored the lottery and many pastors and church members threw up their hands, thinking there would be a lottery, he recalled.
“But in the process, they overcame their discouragement. They did not give up. They fought the good fight,” Terry recounted.
When the vote was taken, 55 percent said “no” to a lottery, he said, adding that more people voted against the lottery than voted to elect Alabama’s governor “by a long shot.”
“Alabama defeated the lottery. We turned the climate around,” he rejoiced. “You can, too, so long as you do not grow tired in the fight.”
Terry told the rally, “You are experienced with gambling in South Carolina. You’ve had video poker. … You’ve seen how the gambling crowd will put their machines anywhere they can with the goal of making a dollar,” and with “little concern for the social cost that’s caused by their enterprise.”
“The lottery is every bit as bad as video poker,” Terry asserted.
Why is having a state lottery that bad?
The lottery is the most pervasive kind of gambling that exists, Terry said. “You will go down to the grocery store, buy your gallon of milk, and on your way out the checkout clerk will say, ‘Would you like a lottery ticket?'” he explained. “You’ll stop for some gasoline, and if you go inside to pay, the clerk is going to say, ‘Would you like a lottery ticket?’ … Every time you pick up a newspaper, usually on the front page, there are the winning lottery numbers. When you watch the 11 o’clock news, there will be a ‘power ball’ drawing.
“The lottery is so pervasive that it gets down to the dining room table, and the kids think of a lottery like they think of candy and soda,” he warned.
Citing the report by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Terry quoted, “Such encounters with [convenience] gambling may lead to higher rates of adolescent gambling, and problem and pathological gambling in later life.” He reported that the NGISC found 8 million teenage gamblers. One out of five teens has a problem with gambling already, and the addiction level for teens is twice as high as adults, he stressed.
“Are you willing to sacrifice 20 percent of South Carolina’s teens to the altar of state-sponsored lotteries?” he asked. “That’s what it comes down to.”