By Kevin Flynn
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Additional info for American Sweepstakes: How One Small State Bucked the Church, the Feds, and the Mob to Usher in the Lottery Age
Raymond Perkins was no longer in the Senate to strong-arm opposition, but he had left the team his playbook. The sweepstakes may be approved by the jubilant members of the lower chamber, but it would be dismissed after the sober, thoughtful examination of the Senate. Senate President Phillip Dunlap assigned HB 47 to a joint committee of Finance and of Ways and Means. The hearing on the afternoon of March 27 was so large it was held in the four-hundred-seat chamber where the House deliberated, instead of one of the tiny committee rooms.
Fields twang, and smiled as he peered out the window. The frost of March was gone, and the days were getting longer, brighter. The sweepstakes was a dainty dish to set before Governor King. There were, however, no nods or winks from the corner office. King’s staff said they had no idea whether he’d sign or veto. They weren’t posturing. King was as silent on the bill in private as he was in public. Pickett had no guarantee where the governor would come down, but the song-and-dance man had one thing going for him.
American lotteries were sophisticated. Some even offered instant prizes. The bait was easy enough for any rube to take. More than one husband gambled away his family’s meal money on lottery tickets. By the 1830s, this painless form of taxation, with odds of winning so long they were scandalous, had morphed into a regressive tax on those who could least afford it. Unlike other forms of gambling such as horse racing, poker, or cock-fighting (most of which were deemed “gentlemanly” in their era), lotteries democratized gambling for the people.