Originally created 02/04/01

Lottery contretemps



South Carolina political leaders are having fun debating how to spend education revenues they expect the voter-approved lottery to raise, but that's putting the cart before the horse.

The first order of business is to put together a lottery infrastructure that's transparent, efficient, trustworthy and accountable. The governor and lawmakers aren't finding much fun in that.

Gov. Jim Hodges wants sole authority to name all lottery commission members, responsible for hiring lottery officials to operate the games, while the GOP-controlled General Assembly wants to name at least some commissioners.

Hodges has offered a compromise whereby the Senate could confirm his appointments, but that's still not good enough. In the interest of bipartisanship the Democratic governor would be wise to share the appointment responsibility with Republican lawmakers.

When commission members are required to answer to two elected entities, instead of just one, they are less likely to get themselves or the lottery in trouble. By keeping an eye on one another they keep each other honest.

Hodges would also be smart to go along with reasonable limits that many lawmakers seek to put in the implementing legislation, such as specifically prohibiting video-based games. The state is well rid of video poker and surely doesn't want to breathe new life into the corrupting industry.

Many lawmakers also want restrictions on lottery advertising. Here they occupy the moral high ground, but pragmatically they could be on the wrong side of the issue.

If South Carolina's lottery is to compete effectively with Georgia's, then it will need to blow its horn just as loud and aggressively as its neighbor state.