GAMBLING FOR EDUCATION
” You cannot ignore the fact that there will be divorce problems, domestic abuse problems, homelessness and addiction problems if you pass this bill “(Williams). Senator J.T. “Jabo” Waggoner, of Alabama, made this statement opposing the lottery bill. At first glance, this would put fear in the predominantly protestant state of Alabama, which is in the heart of the Bible Belt, as well as surrounding states that are trying to obtain a lottery. However, these problems are prevalent in the country, without the lottery. First we’ll look to Webster’s Dictionary to define gambling. Webster says 1 a: to play a game for money or property b: to bet on an uncertain outcome 2: to stake something on a contingency: take a chance. (1) One might ask, why is the lottery any different from the dog tracks that currently occupy the state? Gambling is gambling right. It seems the state has already legalized gambling.
North Carolina, the largest state in the U.S. without a lottery, has fought unsuccessfully for decades to pass a lottery bill. Residents of North Carolina are sinking more than 71 million dollars per year into the lottery. They are driving to surrounding states to spend money that will have no direct benefit to their state’s educational system. It is estimated, that by legalizing a state lottery, more than 300 million dollars in revenue would be generated for state education programs. For example, since passing the bill in 1992, Georgia has distributed more than 5.6 billion dollars in scholarships to more than than 600,000 students. The lottery does so by providing financial rewards for better
grades. Although these statistics show it has been successful in providing rewards, opposition to the lottery has remained steady and strong, with specific community support.
There is an organization in Tennessee named “Gambling Free Tennessee Alliance”(GTFA). Mike Williams, a staff writer for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, paraphrased Joe Rogers, leader of the GTFA, as stating that “…the lottery…creates social problems and entices the poor to spend a disproportionate part of their income on the game” (Poe). Williams goes on to say the GTFA feels that by passing the bill it would reduce revenue on taxed items such as food, liquor, gasoline, and cigarettes. This statement is assuming that people who play the lottery are providing substantial revenue by purchasing the taxed products and that they are willing to trade them in for a lottery ticket, which is far-fetched at best. The morality of this statement is also in question. The GTFA is presuming that a persons’ money would be better spent on alcohol. It would seem that a six pack of tickets would do less harm, at least physically, than a six pack of beer. The anti-lottery campaign organizations, that work so tirelessly to combat the lottery institution, are fighting an uphill battle. The lottery has already proven to be a success. If every lottery player were addicted to the point at which he/she stops paying for taxed goods, and their rent for that matter, the cycle would prove fatal for the business. Patrons would be jobless, homeless, careless, and they would be unable to keep the money flowing into the market. There would be no demand for lottery tickets if everyone were unemployed.
The situation of lottery patrons that cross state borders weekly and in some cases daily is out of control. Chattanooga native, Jay Anderson, drives 10 miles each week during a lunch break to purchase tickets for himself, friends and family. It makes more sense to spend this money in one’s own state so that the patron may actually benefit from the incentives programs. Senator Steve Cohen, a Memphis Democrat, who has tried to get the lottery in his state for the past 18 years and strongly agrees with the previous statement. Cohen states, “let’s keep our best and brightest in Tennessee. There’s no hope for education funding in Tennessee except for the lottery. Other states have benefited, and I think it would be a shame if Tennessee blows it and doesn’t vote for this lottery” (Poe). A person representing a state’s well being, both politically and economically, would not do something that the citizens did not approve of as a majority and that might impact that state negatively. That would be illegal and immoral, and that individual would be jeopardizing his/her political position.
Rogers, of the GTFA, opposes Cohen’s proposal because it would only benefit students who already plan on attending college. However, the bill states that after every qualifying student receives a scholarship, any money left over will be distributed to K-12 schools for early learning and after-school programs. On Thursday June 19, 2003 the bill did in fact pass, and plans to distribute scholarships for the fall semester of 2004 are well under way. By passing this bill, Tennessee succeeded in voicing the opinion of the voters. These voters were afforded the opportunity to voice their opinions because they observed the benefits neighboring states acquired by putting the lottery in place.
There are still twelve states that do not have a lottery. One might wonder how long it will take for these states to harvest this low hanging fruit before raising sales or state income tax to continue funding second rate educational systems. Republicans and conservative Democrats will continue to argue that gambling is morally wrong, but others in the state will keep fighting for the opportunity to give the youth of America a chance for a better educated future.