What is the Washington State Lottery trying to hide?
The other day I wrote a piece attacking the Lottery for cynically targeting our state’s youth: “Lottery’s new market: hooking teens.” The basis for my criticism was an official document I downloaded from the Office of Financial Management’s web site entitled, “Washington Lottery Business Plan, 2005-2007 Biennium,” which described teens as “the players of the future” and designated 18-20 year-olds as part of “a key market the lottery intends to pursue.”
So how did the Lottery respond to the revelation that the primary focus of their marketing plan is promoting teen gambling? Did they issue an apology or an explanation, or a promise to at least study and reconsider their objectives?
No… apparently, all they did was remove the offending document from the OFM web site.
This morning I received an email from a journalist informing me that the link I provided no longer worked, and sure enough, the document is gone. I’ve since uploaded a copy to my own server and updated the link — you can download a copy here — but a fingerprint of the missing document can still be found on Google.
Search on a quote from the document — such as “this age group represents the players of the future” — and you find a broken link to the document, plus a cached HTML translation, courtesy of Google.
No doubt the Lottery was embarrassed to have this document publicly scrutinized, knowing what they know about the risks of teen gambling addiction. As I wrote the other day:
The Lottery’s own 1998 study revealed that as much as 18 percent of the state’s problem gamblers are under the age of 18, and that instant lottery tickets often serve as a gateway activity to more serious gambling. The study also corroborates other studies that show that at risk and addicted teen gamblers have a significantly higher rate of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other addictions.
The Business Plan had resided in a directory labeled “strategic,” and apparently it was just too strategic to share with members of the Legislature who are considering raising the gambling age to 21. Companion bills recently passed out of committee in both houses, but were weakened to exempt the Lottery.
Yet I wonder… if the full membership truly understood the Lottery’s marketing strategy — which now includes hiding such strategy from legislators — if they might not vote to raise the age on lottery tickets as well?
I suppose that might explain this mysterious, disappearing document.