Well, the Legislature may have failed to act, but at least Governor Gregoire has showed some leadership when it comes to teen gambling addiction.
After a failed attempt to raise the state gambling age from 18 to 21, and the controversial disclosure of a WA State Lottery marketing plan that bluntly targets teens, Gov. Gregoire has instructed the Lottery, in no uncertain terms, to develop a new marketing plan that ensures that “we are not, in any way, marketing lottery products to youth.”
“Because there may be little to no difference between marketing and advertising strategies directed at teenagers under 18, and those 18 and 19 years old, I ask that you refrain from using tools that entice those young adults to play. My concern is that, by following such a path, we would increase the likelihood of younger teenagers becoming involved in gambling at an age when they do not fully understand the risks involved.
I understand that this may mean a reduction in revenue from young adults who can play legally. In the interest of protecting more vulnerable children and teenagers, as I believe we have a responsibility to do, I am willing to take that chance.”
I know I don’t get much support in my comment threads for my personal advocacy for raising the gambling age, but I wonder how anybody can oppose the governor’s new directive? It is one thing for the Lottery to meet the demands of an existing market, it is another thing entirely for it to focus its substantial marketing, advertising and product development budget on addicting a new generation of youth.
Problem gambling is the nation’s fastest growing teen addiction, and teen problem gamblers use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs more than any other group. The Lottery’s own prevalence studies strongly suggest that lottery tickets often serve as a gateway towards other, higher stakes forms of gambling, and lifelong addiction.
While Second Chance Washington may have failed this session in its efforts to raise the gambling age, it deserves a ton of credit for raising the profile of teen problem gambling. If not for their hard work, and the commonsense judgement of Gov. Gregoire, the Lottery would still be spending our tax dollars promoting gambling to kids.