RICHMOND, OCT. 16 -- Opponents of a Virginia lottery will begin a campaign on Northern Virginia cable television stations Monday in an effort to turn public opinion against the Nov. 3 referendum.
"Don't Buy the Lie" is the theme of the campaign, which is expected to cost slightly more than $100,000. The commercials were previewed for reporters here today.
Pro-lottery advocates said they were uncertain if they would counter with an advertising campaign of their own, but a spokesman said any commercials, even negative ones, that talk about the issue might help win passage of a lottery.
Both sides say they believe the outcome is tied to the size of the voter turnout, with a low one favoring lottery opponents.
With just over two weeks remaining before the election, the issue has failed to generate much interest, but polls show Virginians favor a state-run lottery by about 2 to 1.
The office of Gov. Gerald L. Baliles has received only 29 letters on the subject, all urging its defeat. Baliles, one of the few state officials who has not taken a stand on the subject -- most others say they are against passage -- is expected to make a statement next week.
Ken Storey, spokesman for Virginians for the Lottery, said proponents may not have enough money for both a television campaign and a get-out-the-vote effort, and that the latter is more important.
Opponents' commercials, he said, "will increase the awareness of all Virginians" that a referendum is being held "and that benefits us. It hurts us, of course, that it is not a pro message."
Jeff Gregson, director of Free Enterprisers Against the Lottery, said "we win" if the voter turnout is 40 percent or lower; "it's 50-50 at 50 percent" and "above 50 percent, we'll probably lose."
The state Board of Elections announced today that 2,659,095 Virginians are eligible to vote next month, the highest total in the state's history. But with a few exceptions, including the race between Republican Chairman John F. Herrity and Demorat Audrey Moore for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, most contests around the state for both local or legislative offices, are regarded as lackluster.
Because of the high cost of advertising on commercial stations in the Washington area, where a majority of viewers live in Maryland or the District, which already have lotteries, more than 90 percent of the money will be spent in downstate markets, Gregson said.
Gregson would not disclose the cost of the campaign, jointly sponsored by his group and Virginians Against State-Sponsored Gambling.
The spot that will be shown on cable channels in Alexandria and in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford counties is called "Look at the Record." It will be shown in Northern Virginia on CNN, during the 8 p.m. news, on the Larry King Show, during a Herrity-Moore debate and on the nightly "Fairfax County News." Elsehwere it will be shown during network and local news programs.
The commercial claims that even in states with the most successful lotteries, including Maryland, taxes have not been reduced as a result of the lottery revenue. It also quotes an Indiana University study that "proves that property crimes go up" in states that adopt lotteries.
A daytime spot will not be shown in Northern Virginia but elsewhere in the state. It features the reading of a "Dear Abby" letter, published this year by advice columnist Abigail Van Buren. In the letter, a woman said her husband's gambling on the lottery was wrecking their family. She signed herself "Desperate."