AIKEN - The No Lottery 2000 bus rolled into Aiken on Tuesday on a tour of the state, driven by a simple philosophy: Every vote counts.
With a lottery referendum on the Nov. 7 ballot, the anti-lottery campaign is in high gear. Restaurant owner Kathy Bigham of Rock Hill, who chairs No Lottery 2000, told a cluster of the faithful that it's up to them to persuade friends and neighbors to vote no.
The campaign is not as well fueled as the pro-lottery contingent, she said, citing media reports that the other side will spend $700,000 on advertising in the month before the vote.
"We can't compete with the dollars," Mrs. Bigham said. "Strength through unity is the only way we can win."
The Rev. Mike Hamlet, who serves on the organization's executive committee, said churches might hold the key to defeating the referendum, which would remove a constitutional prohibition against lotteries. The pastor of First Baptist Church of Spartanburg said more than 500 "faith leaders" are committed to preaching against the lottery and urging their parishioners to carry that message into the community.
"We have found when South Carolinians know the truth about the lottery, they don't want it," he said.
Aiken Sen. Greg Ryberg told the gathering clustered on the city's festival site that people have been duped by promises, including Gov. Jim Hodges' 24-page plan for running a lottery to benefit education.
"The governor doesn't even have a vote," he said. If the referendum passes, he added, it will be up to the Legislature to fill in the details, and "nobody can say what a mishmash that will turn out to be."
Mr. Ryberg, an adamant foe of video poker when it was legal in South Carolina, said the people bankrolling the pro-lottery campaign are the same who favored that gambling industry.
"They see the lottery as a way to get back into the video poker business," he said. "We have to keep saying it over and over again. We don't want it here."
The No Lottery 2000 group contends that the downside of a lottery is greater than its benefits to schools and scholarships. And having one run by the state makes gambling a public policy.
Columbia lawyer John Rainey, the organization's finance chairman, said that when states start running lotteries, "government strays from its traditional role of protector of the people to become a predator of the people, because lotteries prey on the poor."
Reach Margaret N. O'Shea at (803) 279-6895.
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