Maine lawmakers fast-track lottery investigation

Sen. David C. Burns, R-Whiting

Reacting to an investigative series by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, the legislature's Government Oversight Committee has voted unanimously to fast-track a study of the Maine State Lottery. Panel members are keen to learn if the Lottery's advertising strategy specifically targets Maine's poor. Continue Reading →

Lawmakers, LePage: Welfare recipients shouldn’t spend benefits on lottery tickets

State Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland

Lawmakers from both parties on Wednesday called for a bipartisan effort to pass legislation implementing a ban on people on public assistance buying lottery tickets with taxpayer-funded benefits.

The call to action follows revelations this week by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting that recipients of public assistance won $22.4 million in lottery prizes since 2010, including eight jackpots worth at least $500,000 apiece. The information was obtained through a public records request to the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Continue Reading →

People on public assistance spent hundreds of millions on the lottery – and took home $22 million in winnings

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Mainers on the state's three major public assistance programs spent hundreds of millions on lottery tickets from 2010 to 2014 and won $22 million, according to a state analysis obtained by the Center through the public records law and an economist expert in state lotteries. Winning does not necessarily disqualify recipients from remaining on any of the programs (food stamps, aid to families and MaineCare). This is the fifth story in the series, "Lottery: Selling hope to the hopeless." Continue Reading →

Maine gets F grade in 2015 State Integrity Investigation

The Maine Statehouse

The year’s frenetic events in Maine's statehouse mark a turn towards increasingly incendiary, winner-take-all politics. But the histrionics also underscore a more insidious problem: Maine’s weak accountability and transparency laws aren’t keeping up with the new pace of politics here, and lawmakers are doing little to change course.

This dynamic has earned Maine an F and a numerical score of 59, placing it tied for 42nd among the states in the 2015 State Integrity Investigation, an assessment of state government accountability and transparency conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. Continue Reading →

Drunk on lottery’s millions, Maine asks no questions about ethics of state-run gambling

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The Maine state lottery receives little oversight by the state legislature because, as one ex-legislator put it, the state is "drunk" on the $50 million revenue that ticket sales add to the state treasury and no one wants to question the ethics of state-promoted gambling if it might mean giving up that money. Continue Reading →

State spends millions to sway flinty Mainers to spend more on lottery tickets

Scratch tickets advertise themselves, say convenience store owners, with flashy designs and ‘carnival barking’ intended to catch the eye and attract impulse buys. These tickets are on display at the Waite General Store in Washington County.

When the state lottery began in 1973, Mainers were not buying tickets at the rate officials had counted on. The state’s response, which continues to today, was to spend millions on marketing and ad campaigns to entice once-flinty Mainers to gamble on long-odds tickets in hopes of getting rich quick. The lottery has more than tripled its in-state advertising expenditures since 2003. It now budgets $3.5 million a year for promoting its Maine and Tri-State lotto games, big jackpot draw games it operates with New Hampshire and Vermont. Continue Reading →

University study proves Maine’s lottery amounts to a multi-million-dollar tax on the poor

Shop co-owners Wayne Seidl (front right) and Joe Ruff (back right) talk with a customer at the Waite General Store. Residents of the small Washington County town of Waite, pop. 101, purchase more lottery tickets per capita than any other town in the state, according to lottery sales data.

A first-ever statistical analysis of Maine Lottery sales figures and census data by Cornell University and commissioned by The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting shows that lottery ticket sales go up when people lose their jobs. For every one percent increase in joblessness in a given zip code, sales of scratch and draw tickets jump 10 percent. Continue Reading →