Some New York lawmakers want the state to tell lottery-ticket buyers how slim the odds are of winning, and raise the gambling age from 18 to 21 to try to discourage gambling sprees.
But those who oppose change have a ready rejoinder: The state is, in effect, addicted to the billions in revenue that Lottery games generate.
The status quo is likely to prevail.
"If you put in the ad 'The New York Lottery jackpot is now $10 million' and in the next graph say the odds of wining are 1 in 12 million, will that affect sales? Sure," said John Cape, who was state budget director during the administration of former Gov. George Pataki. "Then we could spend less on education."
So while some lawmakers decry what they see as the harmful effects of gambling in general and promoting Lottery sales in particular, their attempts to rein in the program over the almost four decades it has been in place have been mostly futile. In fact, the Lottery has expanded.
Lawmakers who oppose gambling annually sponsor bills to have the Lottery scaled back or more protections added for those who play it, but they are annually rejected.
Tinkering with the New York Lottery would result in billions less for state education and higher property taxes, some state lawmakers say, and despite a few vocal critics, the games have been largely untouched by legislation recently.
"Where are you going to get that kind of money if you don't have this system?" said Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee Chairman William Larkin, R-New Windsor, Orange County, referring to the $2.2 billion the Lottery raised in 2005-06.
The majority of funding for education in the state comes from state and local property taxes, which are among the highest in the nation. Lottery supporters say that without the games, the taxes would be even higher.
"One of the hardest things to do in this state is deal with property taxes," Larkin said. "The total amount of Lottery money would go down to education" if the Lottery was restricted.
Lawmakers defeated some Pataki proposals to expand Lottery games, said Duane Motley. He is head of an evangelical Christian group called New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, which is the largest member of the newly formed Coalition Against Gambling in New York.
For example, lawmakers turned down a Pataki plan to allow the Quick Draw keno game around the clock instead of 13 hours a day, and also rejected the introduction of some new scratch-off games.
Don't look for a big change in the Lottery because a new governor has taken office. Gov. Eliot Spitzer hasn't taken a position on the Lottery, according to spokeswoman Christine Anderson.
Critics of the Lottery in the state Legislature introduced several bills last year that would place restrictions on advertising and other regulations, but they languished in committee.
Larkin said the bills introduced, like changing the legal gambling age from 18 to 21 or limiting where Lottery vending machines can be, aren't victims of typical Albany gridlock. They're just not realistic.
That hasn't dissuaded some in the Legislature from hammering away at the issue that they fear will cost the state more in the long run.
"The problem is that state government is addicted to gambling," said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo. "Under the Pataki administration, we have seen one of the largest expansions of state-sponsored gambling in New York state from all of the casinos and all the expansion of the video slot machines."
In the last five years, Hoyt has proposed several restrictions on the Lottery. Few have made it out of committee. Meanwhile, he has seen advertisements become increasingly sophisticated.
"They are flashier and more seductive and more misleading than ever before," Hoyt said of the ads, since they emphasize more than ever the extremely rare event of getting rich by just buying a ticket. "And they certainly don't offer the truth about the 'dollar and a dream.' They talk about becoming a millionaire, but the chances of you succeeding are a million to one."
Hoyt called for the state to advertise the odds of winning in television commercial and print ads.
Sen. Frank Padavan, R-Queens, another critic of the Lottery, also introduced a measure that would require the odds of winning to be shown in advertisements.
"It advertises in a fashion that is obscene using every gimmick you can think of," Padavan said. "They latch on in some way or another to entice individuals and get young people to play as well."
Hoyt and Padavan both want to raise the legal age to gamble from 18 to 21. That, too, has remained in committees of both houses. Children as young as 10 can develop a gambling problem, according to anti-gambling advocates.
The minimum age to purchase a Lottery ticket or scratch-off game is 18. But in bars, a person must be at least 21 to play the Lottery.