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Lure of the Lottery

September 14, 1993

The California Lottery has helped to foster "lottery fantasy syndrome" in teen-agers and adults, says a psychologist who practices in Downey and Los Angeles.

With lottery machines selling scratch-off tickets in many Southland supermarkets, it's easy for minors to spend a dollar and try their luck, Robert Butterworth says.

"Kids who are hooked into the MTV instant gratification are buying lottery tickets to get around working for it," Butterworth said. "Some of them really think they're going to win and are thinking about what they're going to spend the money on . . . they don't understand the odds."

Adds Redlands psychologist Durand Jacobs: "Ever since the lottery started in California, it's been (teen-agers') favorite commercial bet.

"When a government promotes the lottery--I mean, heavily promotes it--all gambling increases," Jacobs said. "The lottery is sort of the pied piper into other forms of gambling."

California's keno games, which run every five minutes from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., are also popular among teens, he said.

"The keno is a particular problem, because kids are congregating in bowling alleys to play these games," Jacobs said. "The statute that says juveniles are prohibited from gambling is neither observed nor enforced in California and other states."

But California Lottery spokeswoman Joan McNabb disputes Jacobs' claims, noting that it is a misdemeanor for both the minor who buys the ticket and the retailer who sells it.

"It's also against the law (for a minor) to win, which takes a lot of the fun out of it," she said.

McNabb said lottery officials follow up all reports of minors betting the lottery, which could result in a year in county jail for the minor as well as the retailer. The violation is also grounds for lottery officials to revoke a retailer's contract, she added.

"If anyone is aware of an incident (of teen-age gambling) . . . we definitely want to hear about it," she said.

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