Advocates call for shutting down lotteries amid COVID-19 stresses

Lottery ticket sales soared in Texas as families received their stimulus checks, according to an April 23 report by The Houston Chronicle — a result anti-gambling advocates were trying to avoid when they called on state leaders to shut down lottery gambling for 30 days.

The aim of the federal stimulus package is to provide Americans with the resources to pay for essentials, not to play the lottery, said Les Bernal, national director of Stop Predatory Gambling in an April 20 letter sent to all governors and attorneys general of states with lotteries.

Many individuals play the lottery with the aim of improving their financial situation — especially in times of “desperation,” Bernal said.

A recent study by Stop Predatory Gambling found that lotteries are a major cause for more than 60% of Americans having less than $1,000 in savings before the pandemic struck.

“Building assets and the accumulating and investing of savings are the keys to financial peace,” said Bernal. “Creating wealth by the accumulation and investment of savings is the direct opposite of what state lotteries represent and encourage.”

Bernal also spoke to members of Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s Gambling Policy Study Committee during an April 20 videoconference. Bernal and John Kindt, professor emeritus of business administration at the University of Illinois, addressed the economic costs of expanding legalized gambling. Ivey formed the study group in February to gather information on the expansion of gambling in Alabama.