RICHMOND, OCT. 28 -- Lottery advocates, acknowledging that opponents have the momentum in next Tuesday's referendum, changed their strategy today and committed all of their remaining money, about $70,000, to a television commercial.
Proponents earlier had said that because of limited funds -- as of Monday they had raised $180,000 compared with $376,000 by opponents -- they would concentrate on a drive to get out the vote, including phone banks, instead of spending their limited resources on advertising. Both sides say a larger voter turnout is expected to favor the lottery referendum.
But with antilottery groups stepping up their radio and television campaigns -- a new radio ad points out that more than 80 percent of the proponents' money came from out-of-state firms that hope to profit from a lottery -- the proponents decided to spend all they have on a commercial.
The 30-second spot will not be shown in Northern Virginia because of the high cost of advertising in the Washington area, said proponents.
The most recent polls still show voters favoring the lottery, though the margin has narrowed.
Charles W. Sublett, director of Virginians for the Lottery, said his group was contacting all of its previous contributors in hopes of getting additional last-minute funding for the voting turnout effort.
Records filed with the State Board of Elections this week showed that Virginians for the Lottery spent more than $65,000 early in the campaign on consultant fees, including $30,000 that went to Doak, Shrum and Associates of Washington and $20,000 to Sublett. Sublett said the District consultants were given their retainer in August, when proponents envisioned raising between $750,000 and $1 million, most of which would have gone to an advertising campaign.
The television commercial flashes portraits of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and John Marshall, and notes that they all played a lottery. "Add your name to the list," it urges. "George Washington played the lottery and if you vote for it Tuesday, you can too."
The new radio spot by lottery opponents, who launched their larger radio and television campaign this month, will be played during commuting hours beginning today all over the state.
It urges voters to tell the companies that are helping fund the proponents' campaign "that Virginia is not for sale."
Also today, opponents held a Statehouse news conference at which Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, House Speaker A.L. Philpott (D-Henry) and several other legislators reiterated their opposition to a lottery.
Philpott said he did not know what position Gov. Gerald L. Baliles will take -- the governor is expected to announce his view on Thursday -- but the speaker said "maybe I should have a prayer session with him."
Terry said it is possible that Baliles will come to a conclusion different from hers because "the governor takes different factors into consideration, giving greater weight to the factor of revenue."
But as the state's chief law enforcement officer, she warned that a state-run lottery would "bring an increase in crime."
A lottery in Virginia would "heighten awareness of illegal gambling opportunities," and bookies would benefit from that free advertising, she said.