Some lawmakers want to prohibit the Washington Lottery from advertising to anyone under 21 after learning the agency wants to increase its sales to teenagers.
The proposed advertising ban has been added to a House bill that would increase the gambling age to 21 in nontribal card rooms and minicasinos.
The amendment tells the Lottery "to be a little more cautious," said Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Edmonds, the bill's prime sponsor.
Lottery spokeswoman Jacque Coe, said the agency's 2005-07 business plan, which calls for marketing the Lottery to teenagers, is legal and practical. The Lottery targets all adults as potential customers, including 18- to 20-year-olds, Coe said. Critics have taken some of the 25-page report out of context, she said.
"As any prudent business, we need to look at the future and how to adapt our products to customer demand," Coe said.
The Lottery business plan says the agency would pursue the 18- to 24-year-old market because it is "favorable towards the Lottery" and is "currently under served."
Jennifer McCausland, director of Second Chance Washington, an advocacy group that supports raising the gambling age to 21, sent copies of the business plan to legislators last week after finding it on the Web site of the state Office of Financial Management.
"I was appalled that our own state government could so ruthlessly target teenage gamblers and view them as the gambling population of the future," McCausland said.
Rep. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma, chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, said the amendment should warn Lottery officials that targeting teens is wrong. He called the overall bill "an appropriate first step" in addressing the state's gambling age, but he said further study is needed on the issue.
The bill awaits a vote on the House floor before it can be considered by the Senate.
Gambling opponents were disappointed when the state Lottery and horse racing were exempted last week from the House bill raising the gambling age. The original legislation would have increased Washington's minimum age for all forms of gambling from 18 to 21.
Last year, the Washington Lottery posted $458 million in total sales, down roughly $20 million from the previous year, said a December report by the State Auditor's Office.
The Lottery contributed $102 million to the state's education fund, nearly $2 million to the state's general fund, more than $4 million to King County, and $7.6 million toward stadium and exhibition funds, the report said.
A similar Senate bill to raise the gambling age to 21 died Tuesday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.