- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) A vocal critic of the Virginia Lottery has been appointed by Gov. Mark R. Warner, Democrat, to the State Lottery Board.
Gilliam M. Cobbs, 68, a former high school principal and former Lynchburg City Council member, said he learned of his appointment to a five-year term in a March 11 letter from Anita A. Rimler, secretary of the commonwealth.
"It was a little bit of a surprise," Mr. Cobbs told the Lynchburg News & Advance. "Any gubernatorial appointment would be a surprise to most people."
Mr. Cobbs, an architectural consultant, said he objects to the way the Virginia Lottery advertises, particularly in low-income areas, and thinks state officials should provide more help to those addicted to playing the lottery.
"I have not been in agreement with some directions of the lottery as a John Q. Citizen," he said Monday.
But Mr. Cobbs said he does support using lottery profits for education.
"Without the lottery we would be in a tight position," he said.
Mr. Cobbs, a longtime Democratic activist, sent Mr. Warner an e-mail outlining his complaints about the lottery last December.
"The games have expanded beyond imagination with little or no input from citizens or the legislature," he wrote. "Scratch-off tickets once were pushed as just a smart way to use one's pocket change now those tickets have risen to well over $10, hardly pocket change."
Lottery officials say the Virginia Lottery has a few $10 tickets, but most cost considerably less than that. No ticket is more than $10.
"Whole page ads frequently appear in expensive daily newspapers throughout the commonwealth; lottery billboards line our highways," the e-mail continued, "and the machines clutter our large chain family grocery stores, the bright red neon signs cheapen our neighborhood corner stores; in our town entire city buses are covered with appeals to play lottery games."
Ed Scarborough, Virginia Lottery's director of public affairs, said the advertising budget has fluctuated since 1989, when the agency spent about $12.6 million on ads. Advertising spending was as high as $15 million in 1992 and as low as $9.6 million in 1990.
Last year, the lottery spent $11.7 million on advertising, with $12.7 million proposed for 2002, almost exactly the same amount spent in 1989, Mr. Scarborough said yesterday.
Virginia Lottery has strict guidelines requiring advertisements to note the odds in top prize games and not to oversell the games, Mr. Scarborough said. Retailers determine where machines go in their stores, he said.
A hot-line number appears on every ticket for people who might be addicted to any type of gambling, Mr. Scarborough said.
He said he looks forward to welcoming Mr. Cobbs to the lottery board. "We've always been a pretty open book over here," he said. "One of the things being an open book means is listening to people who like the lottery and listening to people who for whatever reason don't like it."


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