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Thursday, February 02 2012 @ 01:41 AM GMT+4
Contributed by: Tad Montgomery

OpinionI just participated in a 'survey' sponsored by the Vermont Lottery Commission. It was a little bizarre, somewhere on a spectrum between a 'push poll' and cheerleading camp. I walked out with $100 in cold, cool cash in my pocket and a newfound sadness at the state of the economy and VT's government.

But let me start at the beginning. Monday morning I got a phone message from a very pleasant sounding woman named Tammy at something called 'Portable Insights.' She wanted me to call her back to participate in a survey concerning a new gambling system proposed for VT. This sounded very suspicious, so I called the Lottery Commission to ask, and sure enough, it and the $100 she'd offered were for real.

So I called Tammy, down in MD it turns out, and got instructions to show up to the video-conference room at BUSH this evening (it took place there, we were told, because certain un-named individuals would be listening in on our discussion). The only questions she had for me were "Do you play any form of the lottery at least once every week or two?" and "Do you frequent a bar or restaurant every week or two?"

So nine of us showed up tonight and listened to a very pleasant gentleman named Jerry describe the game of KENO (always in full caps). For those who aren't familiar, it's the game you can see in bars and food joints in Mass. & NY with a screen up on the wall showing 80 orange numbered balls and different ones lighting up to depict the winning numbers. If you've put money into the machine and some of the numbers you've chosen get picked you are a winner, and the bartender will cash out your stub for you.

It turned out that seven of the nine of us play the lottery on a regular basis. One participant admitted to putting down up to $100 on a weekly basis. Jerry wanted to make sure that all of us know the benefits to the state's educational fund as a result of all of this legal gambling, and he asked a bunch of what seemed like leading questions. "Why do you enjoy playing the lottery?", "What phrases might we use to advertise KENO to other Vermonters?", "Are you familiar with the warning 'Gamble Responsibly'?"

I was the only one in the group who thought it was a bad idea. No surprise, really, considering the test questions that folks had to pass to get in the survey. "Why?" asked Jerry. "I understand that Vermont is facing difficult budgetary issues." I said, "This, however, just seems like another tax, only this tax is targeting two very vulnerable populations -- the poor and those addicted to gambling. Aside from that it seems like a bad idea to mix gambling with alcohol in a bar setting where people's better judgment might be depressed. Overall I'd say that this type of state sponsored gambling is a symptom of a civilization in decline."

What I wanted to say, but didn't, is that it smells like social cannibalism.

Jerry took it all in stride, respectfully honoring my concerns but also actively looking to people to refute my opinions on the matter. Near the end of it I said that I would likely leave a bar if I walked into one and saw it had KENO. His response was to say "We'll get you playing KENO yet, Tad."

The big questions I was left with are -- is it a done deal? Are these little blinking boxes going to start showing up in the seedier bars in Brattleboro? And above and beyond that, what will the real cost to the state of Vermont be, when all of the externalities are figured in? Is taking advantage of people drinking in bars really the best way to fund our public schools?


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  • Paid by the Lottery Commission | 15 comments | Create New Account
    The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they may say.
    Paid by the Lottery Commission
    Authored by: Genie on Thursday, February 02 2012 @ 04:46 AM GMT+4
    What a sad story!

    Wonders Never Cease.
    Paid by the Lottery Commission
    Authored by: Rolf on Thursday, February 02 2012 @ 10:52 AM GMT+4
    Thanks for writing up this story Tad. I think this is a
    great example of local citizen journalism.

    I would have had no idea that there was any plan to
    bring Keno to Vermont. I tried like you, to search on the
    internet for information on Keno in this state, and came
    up with nothing.
    From what you have written, it does seem that this
    survey was designed as a means of furthering a specific
    goal, rather than being any sort of legitimate research.

    I am going to contact Shumlin and local state reps about
    this and see if we can find out more about how far
    along plans are to bring this to towns. Personally, I
    would oppose it for Brattleboro. I personally have
    worked on creating raffles for non-profits, so I am not
    opposed to all gambling, but as you pointed out, the
    plan to put them in bars where people are apt to be
    somewhat incapacitated, seems like a bad idea.

    Thanks again.


    Dreams Trump Video
    Paid by the Lottery Commission
    Authored by: H on Thursday, February 02 2012 @ 02:03 PM GMT+4
    I guess we haven't hit bottom yet. Thanks Tad, for following through with this and informing us.
    The idea that the State would even consider KENO just saddens me. This is simply a calculated and predatory attack on all Vermonters.
    Where do you draw the line? Megabucks? Powerball? Scratch Tickets? KENO?....and the fact that this stuff is illegal unless it is conducted by the state. Great moral compass there. And it all goes to the education fund, really.
    Maybe Randy, Jeff and Olga can take this ball and run with it. I would love to know how this idea went up the food chain at the State.
    Authored by: cgrotke on Thursday, February 02 2012 @ 03:36 PM GMT+4
    Maybe H could walk around the corner and ask the Chair of
    the Vermont Lottery Commission - Martha O'Connor. : )

    Authored by: H on Thursday, February 02 2012 @ 06:47 PM GMT+4
    That is what I get for piping up. It was kind of a weak move volunteering others, wasn't it. I'll go to the source and do my own reporting.
    Thanks Chief, Jimmy Olson

    Authored by: cgrotke on Thursday, February 02 2012 @ 08:05 PM GMT+4
    You were located closer to the Commissioner, Jimmy... : )
    Paid by the Lottery Commission
    Authored by: cgrotke on Thursday, February 02 2012 @ 02:10 PM GMT+4
    I got this message, too. I didn't reply, as I figured they
    weren't interested to hear how I thought the Lottery was a
    scheme to get mostly poor people to part with what little
    they have. (The odds are always with the house. You will
    lose more than you win, or they wouldn't be in business.)

    I'm very happy to see that Tad has eloquently expressed
    these sorts of thoughts to the commission. Thanks!

    Some possible advertising slogans for KENO in VT ? That
    could be fun:

    - Instead of getting something you need, buy KENO!
    - The odds are against you! KENO!
    - Skip OKEMO, Go O -KENO. You don't need exercise!
    - Visit Vermont - It's just like New York!
    - Suport edukatshun - get drunk and gamble! KENO VT!
    Paid by the Lottery Commission
    Authored by: Tad Montgomery on Thursday, February 02 2012 @ 03:27 PM GMT+4
    Your Okemo reference reminded me of one suggestion from a participant: put them up at the ski resorts! Now wouldn't that be a bit of ironic justice?

    One ditty I thought of was:
    KENO: You might just lose it all
    All The Rage In Potterville
    Authored by: Lise on Thursday, February 02 2012 @ 08:28 PM GMT+4
    I was really worried about this recession and what it would do to us as we run out of money. Filling budget deficits with gambling receipts makes perfect sense. After all, running gambling operations must be lucrative or gangsters wouldn't be involved in it.

    Don't think the state lottery people aren't aware of their image. In NH, there's an ad campaign right now to associate the Lottery with education funding. Whether you agree with them or not about the benefits of state lotteries, the ads are clearly PR designed to make people feel favorably toward the lotteries.

    If we go along with them, then we've made peace with gambling and decided it's ok. My guess is that it was limited for a reason, but maybe those reasons don't apply today, or at least, not to state-sponsored gambling.

    The story of money is a tangled one, no doubt about it. KENO is just one little piece.

    All The Rage In Potterville
    Authored by: louc on Friday, February 03 2012 @ 05:41 AM GMT+4
    I grew up surrounded by gambling, my Dad was an exectutive with the
    NY Racing Association. Because we lived nearby, I spent a lot of time
    at Belmont and spent every August from the time I was an infant until
    I was well into my teens in Saratoga. We alway rented the same house
    on the lake and a co-worker and good friend of my Dad's, who had six
    kids, rented the next house over. I'll never forget the day when I was 6
    or 7, my dad came home early and went next door. There was a lot of
    commotion and I eventually learned that the man next door at died at
    the track. However, it wasn't until years later that I learned that he
    had had a heart attack and died in my Dad's arms when the horse that
    he had all of his money riding on didn't come in. You see, no one
    knew that he had a gambling addiction and that he had everthing
    riding on that horse. His family lost their home, their savings, the kids
    college funds and just about everything they owned. This is what
    worries me about making gambling too accessable. It makes it too
    easy for those who are addicts and for those who could easily become
    addicts. Sure we have the lottery and scratch tickets, but they're not
    as much fun or addicting as Keno. I'm not trying to preach here. I've
    bought lottery and scratch tickets, played the slots and keno, but I
    know my limit and have first hand knowledge of what gambling can
    do. However, many others don't and it scares me how fast it can ruin
    a person and his or her family's lives. I really hope that our legislators
    use common sense and that these machines are not approved for use
    in Vermont

    All The Rage In Potterville
    Authored by: tomaidh on Friday, February 03 2012 @ 01:23 PM GMT+4
    First hand experience trumps hearsay everytime. I have been bitten by the bug, but never caught the "flu".
    There have been times that I felt certain about the outcome of an event, but fought the impulse to bet on that outcome. Most times I would have lost.
    I've Won Every Time - Once, That Is
    Authored by: cgrotke on Friday, February 03 2012 @ 02:30 PM GMT+4
    Right before I went to college, I was at Saratoga and bet
    for the first and only time.

    As I recall, it was a race in which I got to choose which
    horses would win, place, and show, but not in any specific
    order - quinella?

    I put down 3 dollars, watched the race, and then found out
    I had won $25. I collected my winnings, bought myself a
    screwdriver in a Saratoga cup, drank to my success, and
    decided to retire from gambling while I was still "up."

    Never regretted the decision. Any new bet would risk a
    perfect record. : )
    I've Won Every Time - Once, That Is
    Authored by: louc on Friday, February 03 2012 @ 03:33 PM GMT+4
    Something else I just remembered. When my Dad was at Belmont, my
    Mom would drive him in and pick him up at night. While we waited, I
    would wander around picking up all the pretty little yellow cards that
    were lying all over the ground - the losing tickets (although I didn't
    know it at the time). I used to fill shoe boxes with them and had no
    idea they
    were just junk or how much lost money they represented.

    We would go to the races quite often, usually when we had guests or
    my mom had to attend an event. I loved the beauty of the horses and
    just watching them run. Even now, if we go to a track, it's the horses
    that fascinate me and have never, ever placed a bet on a race.

    All The Rage In Potterville
    Authored by: H on Friday, February 03 2012 @ 03:04 PM GMT+4
    Growing up in Garden City, it was hard not to have some of the track(s) be part of you. Whether it was west on Hempstead Turnpike to Belmont, or on the Southern State to Aqueduct, we would go to the track to simply do something. We also had Roosevelt Raceway just down the road from where I went to elementary school. Miss Maloney, who was rascal irish, would arrange field trips to the harness track and we would meet her friends, check out the horses and see all these piles of tickets on the ground...all losers . I think she did this by design. She, along with my family, instilled at an early age the perils of betting. Probably not part of the Stewart School curriculum but a vaulable takeaway for sure.
    I knew pretty early on that it is almost impossible to have a good day at Aqueduct betting against the railbirds in February. I also knew that there are opportunites for wagering on the big race week-ends because there is alot of random betting going on. And the chariot races?, forgetaboutit. But more importantly I learned that you don't bet what you can't lose.
    One can abuse gambling, just like alcohol and tabacco. And here is the rub, we all become junkies...especially the state, who becomes reliant on those revenues.
    Tabacco revenues are a case in point....if they are dwindling, they need to be replaced by, you got it, KENO.
    This KENO thing is simply a statistical loser for the the player and probably in the long run a loser for the state. Kind of like the way we run our medical system. Lets incent bad health and then we will build the structure to make you better...and round and round it goes.
    Are the KENO folks fooling anybody with this feel good proposition that the money goes to our children in the form of the education fund?
    As somebody said in a previous post, KENO and liquor? Where does this end.
    We took a tour last spring to the Missisippi Delta down to the Bayou. Made many stops along the way. Probably the most dissapointing thing we saw was the river boat gambling. Take Vicksburg...the river boat is the anchor to commerce in the downtown. It appears to have failed miserably. To me, the Vicksburg brand is completely diminished, the place has to completely retool. Bottom line, gambling is not a sustainable model for commerce.
    All The Rage In Potterville
    Authored by: tiny on Friday, February 03 2012 @ 02:43 PM GMT+4
    @Tad- I feel the same way you do about gambling. I work
    too hard for my money to spend it that way, I might as
    well throw it i the garbage. There are a number of Indian
    casinos around where I live and I have seen first hand the
    disposable income it sucks out of people and some local
    businesses. I don't disagree with your assertion about
    social cannibalism. And you know what really gets me, is
    waiting in line to get a coffee or gas at the local store and
    having to wait for people ahead of me in line getting their
    quick picks and other lottery tickets.

    Once after waiting 10 minutes as a few people were
    getting those stupid tickets, I went out to pump my gas
    and encounter one of the people scratching their tickets
    and tossing them in the garbage. I remarked aloud, so
    was it worth it? We talked about the lottery for a bit and
    I added I never play. Their response? " I am poor and
    have a job, but I am never going to get rich. No matter
    how hard I work, no matter how much OT I put in, I will
    never be a fat cat. The only way I will become rich is to
    win the lottery."

    Well you know what, it is probably true. I felt like a
    sanctimonious jerk. Who am I to pass judgement on this
    person, anymore than the person who drinks 3
    Jagermeisters in a row in front of me at a bar? Or the
    dude that is smoking a big dubie in a parking lot? Heck,
    in those cases those people might get behind the wheel of
    a car and kill
    somebody. I can't say the same as the person scratching
    a quick pick.