As Revenues Slow, Lotteries Expand in Order to Entice More Players, States Are Considering Video Poker and Other Electronic Games. STATE GAMBLING

By John Dillin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 16, 1991 | Go to article overview

As Revenues Slow, Lotteries Expand in Order to Entice More Players, States Are Considering Video Poker and Other Electronic Games. STATE GAMBLING


John Dillin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


AMERICA'S enthusiasm for lotteries, which fattened state treasuries throughout the 1980s, may finally be fading.

Double-digit growth pushed lottery sales to $21 billion in 1990, but now revenues seem to be reaching a plateau. Alarmed by the trend, some states are scrambling to come up with new gambling gimmicks, like video poker, to keep the profits rolling in.

"There's no doubt that as we become more mature, our sales will level off," says Mike Carr, president of the new Louisiana lottery. "There will also be more competition from other forms of gambling, like riverboat gambling and video gambling."

Louisiana launches its lottery, the 34th in the nation, on Sept. 6.

Nationwide, state lottery revenue grew just 7.7 percent last year - a sharp slowdown from the '80s. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia earned lottery profits of just under $8 billion in 1990.

Two factors seem to be cooling lottery mania, says Charles Clotfelter, a Duke University professor who is co-author of "Selling Hope: State Lotteries in America." One is the recession, Mr. Clotfelter says. The other is boredom.

Even so, lotteries continue to spread, even into states with hard-core opposition like Louisiana. Despite strong resistance from Southern churches, Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina are among states that may be moving closer to their own lotteries.

"A referendum to approve a lottery would pass easily in North Carolina," Clotfelter predicts.

The hottest lottery controversy this year, however, has blown up in Oregon, far from the nation's Bible Belt.

After years of steady growth, Oregon's lottery revenues peaked in fiscal year 1990 at $163 million, then fell to $147.3 million in FY 1991 that ended June 30.

The decline in Oregon took place even though lottery operators tried to spice up the excitement with Lotto America, Daily 4, and Sports Action.

Anxious to attract new players, Oregon now wants to launch two additional gambling games, but state officials have run into a buzzsaw of opposition.

Keno, a kind of 5-number bingo, is scheduled to go on-line Sept. 13. Oregon lottery officials, who studied computerized keno gambling in southern Australia, predict it will add $20 million a year to the state's ticket sales.

However, a much bigger uproar was created in July when the legislature approved video poker in bars, taverns, and other licensed establishments that will not admit anyone under the age of 21. Video poker allows players to gamble with electronic cards against a computer. …

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