The lottery referendum is a question of choice. Do Virginians want to play a lottery game and raise $200 million for the state at the same time? The money will likely go for programs such as education, senior citizens, law enforcement, among others. Once Virginia has a lottery, it's the choice of the individual to play or not.
I find it interesting that the leading individual of one of the antilottery groups makes over a million dollars a year, yet says we shouldn't be allowed to play a lottery. If I made a million dollars a year, I probably wouldn't want to play the lottery either.
These antilottery groups have created all sorts of "boogie man" stories in an effort to confuse the basic issue that the lottery is a question of choice. There are some facts Virginians should know about the lottery before they vote Nov. 3.
A lottery does not promote gambling. According to the Senate Finance Committee report on the lottery question, "What we do know is that numbers operations exist in all the cities and counties surveyed, and in six of seven localities, illegal numbers is identified as an enforcement problem. Only Fairfax County reported little or no numbers activity. In Fairfax, the Vice/NarcoticsDivision commander links the almost non-existence of numbers to potential players' easy access to the Maryland and D.C. lotteries."
A Virginia lottery will help keep dollars in Virginia instead of being spent on out-of-state lotteries. Each year millions of Virginia dollars are spent in Maryland, Washington and West Virginia on their lotteries. These are dollars Virginia should be reaping, not some other jurisdiction. According to a Maryland lottery official and highlighted by a recent Washington Post article, $77,000 is spent every week in Colonial Beach, Va., on Maryland lottery tickets.
A lottery will not teach children to throw money away. The lottery legislation pro-hibits advertising that promotes the lot-tery. The Virginia Education Association has endorsed the lottery. These are the people whose slogan is: ''We Teach the Children.''
The lottery will be a well-managed department of the state that is protected with adequate security safeguards to keep its integrity beyond reproach. The lottery will go through annual audits, all key lottery department personnel must pass tough background checks by the state police, and before a lottery ticket vendor gets his license he must pass a background screening. Only people with good standing in the business community will be selling lottery tickets.
The tradition of a lottery in Virginia runs deep. It goes back to the founding of Jamestown, which was financed by a lottery. Lotteries helped establish the College of William and Mary and many other landmarks in the Commonwealth. George Washington is known to have bought one of the first tickets to a Washington, D.C., lottery. Thomas Jefferson said, ''A lottery is a wonderful thing; it lays taxation only on the willing.''
-- Landon Taylor is cochairman of Virginians for the Lottery.