Baltimore Sun

Maryland Lottery: Low-income players are not ‘victims’


With the public’s attention focused on a $1 billion Mega Millions jackpot last week, The Baltimore Sun elevated an old trope that has erroneousl­y persisted for decades — that lotteries “victimize” poor people who are “duped” into playing (“The $1B question: Can Maryland run a lottery that doesn’t victimize people living in poverty?” July 27).

The Sun’s editorial depicted lotteries as villains and lottery players as “victims” who are incapable of making their own decisions. The misleading viewpoint was based on a series of articles substantia­lly lacking in context reported by college students who establishe­d a premise and cherry-picked supporting data before contacting lotteries with transparen­tly slanted questions — a violation of basic journalist­ic tenets.

Encouragin­g responsibl­e play is a critical focus for Maryland Lottery and Gaming, which works with the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling, the state’s primary source of assistance for problem gamblers. Maryland’s casinos annually contribute funds (more than $4.1 million last year) allowing the Center of Excellence to provide free counseling, available by calling 1-800-GAMBLER. The Maryland Lottery is also one of only 10 U.S. lotteries to achieve the highest level of responsibl­e gambling certificat­ion by the World Lottery Associatio­n.

The Sun’s editorial references the concentrat­ion of lottery retailers in Baltimore City and claims a “troublingl­y high percentage of tickets are sold in low-income neighborho­ods.” Lottery sales in Baltimore represente­d 13.4% of total sales last year — nearly 87% of sales happened elsewhere. Retail businesses sell products where people are and lotteries market to society as a whole just like any other business. Ultimately, each retail proprietor decides whether or not to become a lottery retailer.

The Sun also accuses lotteries of “transferri­ng wealth” from poor to rich communitie­s. Sales of Maryland Lottery tickets contribute­d $667.4 million to the state in the last fiscal year which The Sun claims was used for stadiums and reducing wealthy people’s taxes. In fact, $20 million in Maryland Lottery profit annually goes to Baltimore’s 21st Century Schools Fund. Additional­ly, the casinos contribute­d $531.4 million last year to the Education Trust Fund. The General Assembly determines how these funds are spent and The Sun can address budgeting disparitie­s by asking lawmakers to answer for them.

The editorial closes by suggesting new investment to prevent problem gambling, but The Sun undercuts its own call to action with the observatio­n that “even with reasonable protection­s, low-income players will continue to spend too much on lottery tickets anyway.” It is a contradict­ory argument that blames “victims.”

The idea that any entity should be expected to prevent problem gambling is a noble thought, but not realistic. For its part, the Maryland Lottery will always operate responsibl­y while also providing entertainm­ent and generating muchneeded revenue for the state’s good causes.

— John A. Martin, Baltimore

The writer is director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States