Lotteries: legal ones bad enough

The indictment of six persons in Pennsylvania, including a state lottery official and a TV announcer who conducts the drawings, on charges of rigging the state's legal "numbers" game should serve as one more warning of the problems that any state might very well confront when it turns to legalized gambling to bolster state revenues. although the overall record of modern-day state lotteries has been good, historically lotteries in the US, dating back to the infamous Louisiana, game of the 1860s which corrupted legislatures, governors, and banking officials, have had a tradition of encouraging fraud and corruption.

Not only does the Pennsylvania case challenge the notion that today's technology and security precautions rule out illegal tampering. But it would seem to undermine the argument used to sell voters on lotteries that legal games are an effective means of combatting illegal "numerous" and other gambling operations. Ironically, it was the complaints of illegal bookmakers using the state lottery to foster their own lawless activities that prompted Pennsylvania law-enforcement officials to investigate and uncover the illegal rigging scheme. In the 13 other states that have legal "numbers" games, the legal and illegal games also flourish side by side, according to lottery officials.

It should not be surprising that government-condoned-and-promoted betting which feeds on the something-for-nothing attitude inherent in criminal activity would spur such attempts to beat the state at its own game. Of course, there are other, often-cited good reasons for states to avoid lotteries: They need constant advertising and new gimmicks to keep losers coming back for more. Most state game shave not attracted the large amounts of revenue promoters initially promise voters to win acceptance. They encourage those who can least afford it to waste their income on lotteries and other forms of gambling. And, as in Pennsylvania, corruption and crime are never far away, awaiting a chance to "play".

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