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The Ads and the Odds

August 27, 1996



New York Gov. George Pataki deserves a merit badge for honesty - or at least an attempt at honesty - about his state's lottery games, which, like those of other states, are based on fooling most of the people most of the time.

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The governor has ordered a change in lottery advertisements to get away from images of instant, fabulous wealth designed to lure a gullible public. Instead, the revised TV spots show people spending rather modest winnings on a new toaster or new brakes for their car. And the ads emphasize the "real" purpose of the lottery - to fund education.

Critics argue that this is high-minded malarkey, since the real reason people play is the dream of riches, despite million-in-one odds. They point out, too, that New York is about to launch a new casino-style game, "Quick Draw," crafted to separate even more citizens from their dollars.

Still, the governor is headed in the right direction. It's high time someone had a pang of conscience about the widespread official glorification of chance and irresponsibility.