Senator Lee says Lottery targets the poor
By Clarence V. McKee, Esq.*
Special to the Outlook
Congratulations to Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) for exposing the Florida Lottery’s dirty little secret –“targeting” low income Floridians.
Lee’s bill, SB 790 passed the Senate Regulated Industries Committee last week. It would limit the number of lottery scratch-off games to 20 or less and the price of a ticket not to exceed $10. Currently, the Lottery offers up to 75 different scratch-off games with no limit at prices ranging from $1 to $25.
In his comments before the Committee, Lee pointed out that scratch-off games have generated $26 billion in the past nine years and that the top grossing zip codes “include some of the poorest in our state.”
He went on to state that this was no coincidence and that lottery spending “increases in low income areas” concluding that “it appears that low income citizens…are being targeted with advertising….” He added that this does not “mirror the lottery’s mission of maximizing revenues in a manner consistent with the dignity of the state and welfare of citizens.
Becoming even blunter, Lee told the Committee:
•We have become “addicted to lottery revenue.”
•It has “gotten too big.”
•Is “too much of a revenue source.”
•The “tail is wagging the dog and must be reined in.”
Lee went on to say that the money being raised, at the magnitude it is being raised, is coming out of the pockets of those who “can least afford to pay it.” Committee Chairman Rob Bradley, R – Fleming Island, agreed and thanked Lee for the bill saying: “We have become addicted to this revenue stream and it is a shame…it takes money from many of our citizens that can least afford it. We need to do something about it.”
Lee’s remarks mirror comments of Representative Frank Artiles, R-Miami, who has introduced similar legislation in the House (HB 607). He told a House Subcommittee last month that we have seen “the largest expansion of gambling” through the lottery with scratch-off games constituting 66 percent of revenues and spending being the most in poorer areas.
Like Lee, he has stated that we are “hurting those who need the most help” and that the purpose of his bill was to “rein in the Florida lottery.”
According to the Committee’s staff analysis of the bill, in 2014-2015 alone, scratch-off games brought in an all-time sales record of $5.8 billion exceeding those in the prior year by $215 million.
Lee’s concern that the lottery is the “tail wagging the dog”, and Bradley’s belief that we have become “addicted to this revenue stream,” is equally applicable to the renegotiated Seminole Gaming Compact where the state stands to collect $3 billion over seven years. It will lead to the largest expansion of gambling in Florida history including: craps and roulette at all seven Seminole facilities, black jack and baccarat at new Seminole locations, a new casino in Palm Beach and Dade counties, black jack at 8 slot machine facilities in Miami Dade and Broward counties, and a new gambling racing machine games at every par-mutuel in the state.
Talk about “gambling creep”, it looks like Florida has become “addicted” to gambling revenue.
So who is getting rich? Certainly not those in the poorest zip codes!
The gambling business in Florida is pretty much a closed shop: the Seminole Tribe; the state; and, members of the exclusive mostly “good old boy” club of pari-mutuel owners.
Most everyone else is in the “donor class” feeding the insatiable gambling beast. Lower income communities are particularly vulnerable and asked to support gambling creep with overblown promises of job creation and community benefit– slots will bring hundreds of jobs and “build wealth.”
The Florida gambling industry–especially the Florida Lottery–welcomes and profits from Black patrons and low income customers. Unfortunately, the returns on their investment to the institutions to which they look for news and information about their community—local Black media—have been called “crumbs from tables of plenty!”
By showing such disrespect for one of the basic institutions of the Black community, these gaming kingpins show just how little they understand and respect the very Black communities from which they seek to suck hard earned dollars with false promises of prosperity!