Texas Lottery Sends Mixed Message On Playing Responsibly

Written By TJ McBride on December 19, 2022
Texas Lottery undercuts its messaging on responsible gambling

With the holiday season in full swing, people are beginning to purchase gifts for those in their lives. Those gifts will include scratch tickets as presents or stocking stuffers.

Which is why the Texas Lottery is warning about gifting scratchers to children. But how genuine is that advice?

Giving scratch tickets to kids is “not appropriate”

You must be 18 or older to purchase a lottery ticket in Texas, including scratch tickets. Also, retailers cannot redeem tickets from minors.

It’s perfectly fine to gift scratch tickets to friends and family who are over 18. The Texas Lottery, however, says giving them to children is not appropriate. For the 12th year, the Lottery has partnered with the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) and McGill University’s International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and Highrisk Behaviors to raise awareness of underage gambling.

Keith Whyte, executive director of the NCPG, says gambling by minors is a growing problem.

“Youth problem gambling has emerged as a significant and growing public health issue. We applaud the Texas Lottery’s commitment to raising awareness about risks of youth gambling through the Gift Responsibly campaign. Our message is a simple one: Lottery tickets are never appropriate gifts for children.”

The “Gift Responsibly. Lottery Tickets Aren’t Child’s Play” message will be displayed on the Lottery’s website, social media accounts and instore messaging.

Adults may be ignorant of risks to youth

According to research, the earlier a person is exposed to gambling, the likelihood of them developing a gambling problem later increases. Many times, these experiences begin when adults expose gambling to children without considering all the risks.

It’s a concern that adults will buy tickets as gifts for minors then redeem any winnings on behalf of them. While it may be hard to enforce such a law, the Gift Responsibly campaign is built on the hope that the messaging will reach most adults.

Gary Grief, Executive Director of the Texas Lottery, said his organization has always promoted responsible gambling.

“From its inception, the Texas Lottery has maintained its commitment to the responsible management and sale of lottery tickets, while being clear that lottery games are not intended for children. The Texas Lottery is proud to support the 2022 Gift Responsibly campaign. We remain committed to our social responsibility of urging lottery consumers to play and gift responsibly, while also providing resources for the problem gambling.”

Lottery undercuts its ‘play responsibly’ message

Of course, the Texas Lottery’s Gift Responsibly campaign sends a positive message about responsible gambling. But it still has a lot further to go to better its system to back up that message.

It has been well reported that the Texas Lottery, like several other lotteries throughout the US, grants licenses to retailers predominantly in lower income communities. In fact, a study by the University of Maryland’s Howard Center discovered that “lottery retailers are disproportionally clustered in lower income communities in nearly every state.”

The data on who is buying scratch tickets points directly to the poorest in the state. The three areas in Texas with the highest monthly amount of money spent on lottery tickets in 2020 were El Paso, McAllen and South Dallas.

All three of those districts fall under the state’s average annual income and all are predominately minority communities.

Supporting the Gift Responsibly campaign is a good start, but far from enough. If the Texas Lottery and other state lotteries wish to genuinely promote responsible gambling, they should closely monitor where their money is coming from and reset priorities.

Exploiting people who already have systems in this country stacked against them is a toxic way to do business.

Even if an organization is making incremental strides forward in other areas.

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TJ McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver, Colorado who covers the Denver Nuggets as a beat writer and the current gaming landscape in Texas. His byline can be found across many websites such as ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report, and others.

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