Survey finds N.C. play similar to national average; no increase in gambling addiction seen
RALEIGH, N.C. — Even in Bible-Belt North Carolina, a majority of Tar Heel adults have played the state lottery, according to a study released Tuesday.
Fifty-eight percent of North Carolina adults have played the lottery since it was created three years ago, said the first poll conducted for the N.C. Education Lottery Commission.
North Carolina's rate of lottery play is similar to the national average, even though strong opposition made the Tar Heel State the last big one in the country to adopt a lottery.
"North Carolina looks like the other states," said Charles Clotfelter, a Duke University economist who has written extensively about state lotteries.
The intensity of the opposition to the lottery in North Carolina, from church and public policy leaders, did not translate to how average citizens felt about it, Clotfelter said.
The state lottery commission hired the Bantam Group, a Massachusetts firm, to examine whether the lottery's advertising efforts were working. The firm conducted 1,000 online interviews and 100 telephone interviews from Jan. 14-23.
The survey found that of the 58 percent of North Carolina adults who have played the lottery, 18 percent played it at least weekly. Of the 42 percent who said they have not played, 21 percent said they are likely to play in the future, while 64 percent said they would rather spend their money elsewhere.
The survey did not provide any demographic details about which income brackets, ethnic groups or geographic areas were playing the lottery most intensely.
Tom Shaheen, the lottery's executive director, said the purpose of the study was to measure the effectiveness of advertising, not distinguish among different population groups.
"Private companies will do that because they want to know what area to target," Shaheen said. "They want to know what ethnicity to target, what part of the state to target. Since we can't target, that information is of no value to us."
Even during the deep recession, there has been no drop in the number of North Carolinians playing the lottery, Shaheen said.
One concern by opponents was that the state lottery would increase problem gambling. But officials with the Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday the rate of gambling addiction among North Carolinians who gamble had remained at about 2.5 percent between December 2005 and 2007.
"It's a little early to tell," Shaheen said. "We are only three years old. ... At this point we don't think we contributed to increasing the problem."
The lottery commission took steps Tuesday to make it easier for the state's estimated 600,000 Hispanics to play the lottery.
It authorized the use of Spanish signs and brochures at stores that cater to Latino customers. About 200 retailers had asked for the change. But the lottery commission decided not to run television or radio advertising in Spanish.
Shaheen said many states with large Latino populations such as Florida, Georgia and Texas do air lottery advertising in Spanish. But he said it was uncertain whether the lottery commission had the authority to do so in North Carolina because of state law that forbids targeting of groups.
"We are being cautious," Shaheen said. "We are staying away from TV and radio."