I understand that if the polls are right, Virginia will succumb this Nov. 3 to the same malaise that overtook the District and Maryland long ago -- a lottery.

How can such an enlightened populace embrace a concept that has so little to commend it? In encouraging gambling, do not lotteries cultivate compulsive gambling, and does not compulsive gambling attract the mob? Lotteries have to be a very inefficient way of raising revenue, given that the costs of the "winnings," promotion, production and the profits of the ticket producers must be paid before any revenue is realized.

Saddest of all is the cruel hope actively fostered in the minds of the millions of losers that their financial problems will end if they gamble. Are not lotteries supported most by those who can least afford them? I wonder if the tax revenue they raise results in services to the poor and elderly that exceed those groups' lottery expenses.

I encourage Virginians to vote against the lottery in the Nov. 3 referendum. In addition, I call on all who participate in lotteries to increase social welfare by taking the money they would otherwise spend on lottery tickets and adding it to their income tax payments. Finally, let there be a backlash against lotteries that will remove them and their garrulous commercials from the District, Maryland and the rest of the United States. ARTHUR G. PURVES Vienna