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OUR VIEW: What has lottery done to S. Dakota?

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How strange it is to hear the state openly pine for a new generation of gamblers, hoping a younger group will take the place of older gamblers and help the state maintain fiscal viability.

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Earlier this week, Lottery Commission Executive Director Norm Lingle told a state Senate panel that video lottery stagnated over the past decade and that the state’s 2010 smoking ban played a part in the decline.

It’s no secret that state government is addicted to gambling, as are some of the state’s residents. Although some people do actually play simply as an occasional sport, others are entirely and thoroughly hooked, willing to wager their grocery money, rent or family fortunes.

The state receives 50 percent of net lottery machine income from the more than 9,000 privately owned terminals. The trouble is that net machine income has fallen from $207.7 million in 2002 to $184.6 million in 2013.

And during the hearing earlier this week, Lingle discussed the importance of getting a younger generation interested in the games.

“To sustain this, we need to somehow get the younger folks involved,” he said.

We just don’t agree at all.

Once again, for the record: We do not wish to entirely rid South Dakota of video lottery. We understand its importance not only in the state budget but also in the hundreds of small businesses that host those machines. Lottery machines mean jobs and state government revenue, and we’re OK with that.

We also will drop a few bucks in a machine every now and then, just like we will purchase a lottery ticket or play blackjack at a casino in Deadwood or on an American Indian reservation.

But there is enough gambling in this state. We do not believe whatsoever in further expansion of gambling, and to openly attempt to lure young people into this spider web truly bothers us.

Why not get them hooked on smoking, too? After all, the taxes on a pack of cigarettes are quite lucrative.

How about booze? Taxes on drinks generate money, too.

It would be healthier for South Dakota to spend its time trying to wean itself from its gambling addiction, and not mulling ways to get young adults hooked on lottery machines.

To hear that a state official is openly hoping to “get the younger folks involved” stunned us.

What have we become?

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