TN lawmaker wants lottery ads to warn players of probable risk of losing

11:39 AM, Jan 11, 2013   |    comments
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By Duane Marsteller | The Tennessean

A state legislator who once proposed banning nearly all advertising for the Tennessee Lottery now is trying a different tack: a warning label.

Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, filed a bill Thursday that would require all lottery advertising to prominently include this notice: "Warning: You will probably lose money playing the lottery." If enacted, it could make Tennessee the first state lottery with a warning label.

Summerville said his goal is to make consumers more aware of their chances of winning.

"We have warnings on cigarettes, and we should have warnings about lottery tickets," he said. "States that sponsor gambling should fully disclose the risks."

The measure would require displaying the notice on all print, outdoor and point-of-sale advertising, including in foot-high letters on billboards, beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Those words also would have to be announced at the end of radio and television spots aired on and after that date.

The Tennessee Education Lottery Corp., which operates the state's lottery, now urges buyers to "Play Responsibly" on all tickets and print advertising. It spent an estimated $13 million on advertising and marketing in the 2011-12 fiscal year, when ticket sales reached a record $1.31 billion, according to agency figures.

The agency has no position on Summerville's proposal, spokeswoman Kym Gerlock said.

Earlier attempt to ban ads failed

It's not the first time that Summerville has targeted the lottery, which he has called "immoral," "corrupt" and "tainted money" while advocating for its abolition.

Last year, he proposed amending the state constitution to ban advertising of lottery ticket sales in any media except at participating retailers' premises. The measure failed to get out of committee.

Summerville declined to assess his latest proposal's chances for success. It has no co-sponsors and a House companion bill has not been filed.

The proposal could face opposition from retailers, who benefit financially from lottery sales. Participating retailers get a 6.5 percent commission on ticket sales, a 1 percent bonus for cashing winning Cash 3 and Cash 4 tickets and bonuses of up to $25,000 for selling winning tickets, among other things.

Summerville isn't the first to seek a lottery warning notice in Tennessee. In 2004, students at Centennial High School in Franklin pitched bills that would have required lottery tickets and dispensers to include "Gambling, including playing the lottery, can be addictive" and a phone number for a gambling addiction helpline. None passed.

Contact Duane Marsteller at 615-259-8241 or Follow him on Twitter @DuaneMarsteller.

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