The New York State lottery is a game for a good cause, lottery Commissioner Jeff Perlee said here Wednesday as he explained Gov. Pataki's decision to scrap the lottery's aggressive advertising messages and stress how revenues are used to help education.
"It is no financial planning program and it's not a savings mechanism for early retirement," Perlee said during a luncheon of the Kiwanis Club Wednesday in the Buffalo Hilton. "It's just a game."
Perlee said his purpose in traveling around the state was two-fold, to explain where the state is going with its promotion of the lottery and to get feedback from the community.
In June, Pataki ordered the elimination of Quick Draw ads and the "Hey, you never know" ads that promised players instant wealth.
Perlee picked out the recent advertisement of a lottery winner that emphasized that the lottery was a fun game and the proceeds went to a good cause -- education.
In fact, more than 40 percent of all Lottery proceeds each year go directly into a state aid to education fund for distribution to local school districts, said Perlee. Another 50 percent is paid out to lottery winners, and sellers of the winning tickets get 6 percent.
"Any business or governmental entity that works in an environment of questions and doubt is not healthy," he said. "We can't operate effectively if there are unanswered questions out there.
"The only message we were putting out earlier was that if you play the lottery you might win a million. The governor has felt for a long time that that message had a corrosive effect and the direction of our message had to be changed."
Perlee also addressed legalized casinos and other forms of gambling.
"We have to be forthright and upfront about this," he said. "There are people who are compulsive gamblers. That problem is there and it always will be, whether it's the lottery or some other form of illegal gambling that goes on all the time.
"While the lottery may be a cause of some of that problem, it is also a potential solution, because the state can now spread the message and make the public aware of the issues. There is already a $1.5 million fund created and taken out of Quick Draw revenues to fund gambling education and treatment programs" He also said his office had no opinion on whether or not legalized gambling should be permitted across the state.