The General Assembly hasn't distinguished itself for courage in tackling hard issues in recent years, so it is not surprising that a number of lawmakers are touting video lotteries as "an easy way" of increasing state revenue. But if there's one thing states should have learned about lotteries, it is that they are not a steady source of easy money over the long haul.
For the first four months of this fiscal year, lottery profits were up 6 percent over last year -- one of the few bits of good budget news the state has had recently. But that figure looks good only because Lady Luck has been kinder to the state than to players. Gross sales from July 1 through Oct. 31 were up less than 1 percent. Luck could easily swing the other way -- and it will. So legislators who point to lottery revenues as a way of scrambling out of the current deficit mess are simply looking for quick, easy -- but wrong -- solutions to long-term budget woes. Those fixes would come at the expense of the less-well-to-do.
Those who would profit from video lotteries call the technology ,, the "next lottery product," essential to expanding the state's lottery revenues. That may be true, but it begs the question of whether the state should grow even more addicted to an undependable revenue source that comes mostly from those who can least afford it.
Today, a special commission is presenting to the governor the results of its study on ways to save money and increase profitability in state government. Rather than grabbing for quick fixes, legislators would do better to act on that report.