Bipartisan bill would restrict TN lottery advertising

News release from Rep. Andy Holt

NASHVILLE, Feb. 8, 2017– On Wednesday, Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) introduced legislation that targets, what he calls, predatory marketing tactics from the Tennessee Lottery.

“Last month, I raised concern over the way lottery commercials were being used in predatory ways to target Tennessee’s most economically vulnerable citizens by encouraging them to purchase lottery tickets rather than life sustaining goods such as food,” says Holt. “I have, very publicly, asked the Tennessee Lottery to ensure me (and the countless Tennesseans who are upset over these practices) that they would no longer run these types of ads. When the media asked them for comment, they had nothing to say, and they’ve said nothing to me. So, now we’re introducing bi-partisan legislation to put an end to these damaging ads.”

(Note: It’s HB633, though apparently a caption bill subject to change later.)

Holt notes research that highlights the fact that these ads target economically disadvantaged and minorities, which he says is shameful.

“A study in the Journal of Community Psychology found that lottery outlets are often clustered in neighborhoods with large numbers of minorities, who are at greatest risk for developing gambling addictions,” noted Holt. “As if that weren’t bad enough, a 2011 paper in the Journal of Gambling Studies conducted a thorough review of available research on lotteries and concluded that the poor are still the leading patron of the lottery. Knowing all of this to be true, the State of Tennessee finds it appropriate to use these types of marketing practices. It’s shameful.”

Holt takes specific issue with 3 commercials that were aired over the holiday season.

“Tennessee’s government protected lottery is telling people who can’t afford Christmas presents for their growing family to just buy lottery tickets instead of exchanging gifts because it will provide them a way to save for their child’s college education, encouraging these same cash strapped families to buy a “biscuits and gravy” lottery ticket rather than actually feed themselves because, hey, once they’re magically rich they’ll be able to feed their families. If you cannot sell a product without encouraging people to go hungry and skip Christmas, then you clearly have a desperate product on your hands,” notes Holt.

The proposed legislation will seek to set up an independent commission to vet all lottery ads.
“The legislation is still being drafted, but it will likely call for a independent commission made up of a marketing consultant, pastor, financial adviser and an addiction counselor who will vet all lottery ads to ensure they are not encouraging players, in any form or fashion, to play the lottery over the purchase of life sustaining goods/services; and must not market the lottery as a potential means to provide for financial wellbeing. The commission will be financed by lottery revenue,” said Holt.

Holt says that the legislation has strong bi-partisan support, noting that Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris (D-Memphis) is carrying the Senate version of the legislation.
“I’ve had countless friends from both sides of the aisle approach me on this issue, and they absolutely agree that it’s time for a change,” said Holt. “I’m very thankful for Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris’ support on the issue, and I look forward to working with him while we take a stand against this embarrassing stain on our state.”

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