The Journal Gazette
Saturday, January 11, 2020 1:00 am

Have we reached too big a gamble?

Those working on the front line of problem gambling are nervously watching the latest development in lottery sales: Checkout-lane ticket purchases. In early November, Texas became the first state to authorize the sales, allowing buyers to pick up lottery tickets as they wait in line at more than 1,500 Dollar General stores.

Les Bernal, national director of Stop Predatory Gambling, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that opposes government-sanctioned gambling, told Stateline, an online publication of the Pew Charitable Trusts, that in-lane sales are “an example of the predatory practices” lotteries use to encourage impulse buys in low-income communities.

“They're advertising the lottery as kind of a Hail Mary investment strategy,” Bernal said.

Texas will expand its “in-lane” offering of lottery tickets to other big-box retailers later this year. Stateline reports several other states are moving to do the same, delivering on what has long been a lottery industry priority. 

Stop Predatory Gambling is launching a national campaign with a goal of reducing the amount of money that low- and middle-income players spend on lotteries by 50% over the next eight years. The organization has proposed ending the practice of advertising to low-income populations, banning the sale of lottery products at check-cashing outlets and forbidding the sale of high-priced lottery tickets in low-income neighborhoods.

Curtailing the marketing of in-lane lottery tickets will be a part of that campaign, Bernal said. 

The Texas Lottery commissioned a study by the University of Houston in 2018, finding that 35% of lottery players had incomes of less than $40,000, 41% earned between $40,000 and $100,000 and 24% had incomes of more than $100,000.

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