One Group Wants To Shut Down The Lottery Until Pandemic Calms Down

Posted on April 24, 2020

The Tennessee Lottery has already made several changes amidst the coronavirus pandemic. For one anti-gambling advocacy group, however, that isn’t enough.

Stop Predatory Gambling has asked officials in 45 states and Washington D.C. to temporarily cease all lottery sales. The motivation behind the call is in line with the unique situation.

Why the group asked the Tennessee Lottery to suspend all sales

To be clear, Stop Predatory Gambling has not asked any state lotteries to even reduce sales permanently. As a matter of fact, the duration of the requested suspension is only for 30 days after the government stimulus payments go out.

As that has already begun, Stop Predatory Gambling would like to see lottery sales suspended immediately. Its reasoning is all about the financial strain that people may be under right now.

“It is essential that these games be shut down between now and at least 30 days after federal stimulus payments are received by American families,” Stop Predatory Gambling National Director Les Bernal said. “There is a mountain of facts showing many citizens gamble on the lottery to change their financial condition, and even more so when they are feeling a sense of desperation.

The group’s argument is that unemployment not only lessens available income but creates strain that enhances the likelihood of TN residents will seek out less conventional ways to address their situations. Since the coronavirus pandemic has put many people out of work, it increases the odds of this situation.

For people already dealing with compulsive gambling issues, loss of income can be especially difficult. In essence, the group is asking the TN Lottery to remove the temptation by suspending the games.

However, the most popular lottery games around the country have already taken measures toward this end. Additionally, many state programs rely on revenue from lottery games.

States face difficult decisions amidst pandemic

Just as the shuttering of non-essential businesses weighed public health interests against the well-being of businesses in each state, state authorities face a difficult decision with lottery sales. Do they suspend sales altogether to protect people and forfeit the revenue or ignore the concerns expressed by this group to try to keep other state programs afloat?

In Tennessee, the Education Lottery supports public schools. Since its inception, the Lottery has provided over $5 billion in funds to TN schools. Voluntarily limiting lottery sales would eat into that funding schools depend on.

Additionally, lottery retailers depend on those sales to pay their bills. Suspending lottery sales could add to the large number of people struggling with the loss of income right now.

Some of what Stop Predatory Gambling seeks has occurred organically. In the wake of reduced sales, Mega Millions and Powerball have cut their jackpots and roll increases drastically.

While that may point toward Stop Predatory Gambling’s concerns being overstated, that’s not necessarily true. Any percentage of the population, no matter how small, making unwise decisions in regards to spending on lotteries is an issue.

So far, weighing those interests against others has led TN and every other state to keep the Lottery open. That may change if the concerns that Stop Predatory Gambling holds become more prevalent.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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