08/19/05 — Albertson says his 'no' vote on lottery is one of principle

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Albertson says his 'no' vote on lottery is one of principle

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on August 19, 2005 1:53 PM

BEULAVILLE -- All that stands between North Carolina instituting a lottery and the issue dying again in the Legislature are five Democratic senators who believe it will do more harm than good.

One of the five is Sen. Charlie Albertson of Duplin County, who says he simply cannot bring himself to vote for something he believes is wrong.

As a boy growing up on a Duplin County farm, Albertson says, he learned that hard work, not chance, is the basis of a good life. He cannot in good conscience go against what he has believed all his life, he said, even though many people in his district have lobbied long and hard for the lottery.

Albertson said his father taught him that "gambling is first cousin to stealing. Stealing you get something for nothing."

"It crosses the line for me," said Albertson, at home this week during a break in the legislative session.

He said whether a person chooses to gamble is his business, but he said he doesn't believe the state government, which has the responsibility to impose laws, regulate commerce and decide how to spend taxpayers' money, should be in the business of promoting gambling.

Albertson worked for the state Department of Agriculture for years. The lessons he learned as a public official have helped him understand the responsibility that anyone on the public payroll has, he said.

He said he feels state-promoted gambling would change North Carolina from being a protector of the people to an exploiter of the people.

The fact that surrounding states have lotteries doesn't change his mind one bit, he said. Another lesson he learned as a young man, he said, is that you don't follow the lead of those around you if you believe their actions are wrong.

"The state should never use its power and influence to take advantage of those affected the most," he said. The people who will be lured to take part in the lottery most will be those who most need financial help. He said those seeking a way out of financial troubles will see the lottery as something honorable if the state promotes it.

"Only four other states spend more on education that North Carolina does, and when you say you're going to use it on education, that kind of dresses it up."

He said there's a way to raise more money for schools, and that is taxes.

"This lottery will be a greater tax on the least of these among us," he said. "We will hurt the people who need the most help with this lottery."

Albertson said some people come to him and ask him to support the lottery so they can "make it."

"You're not going to make it playing the lottery," he said. He said he feels it's not right for the state to send the message that the lottery is a way out of financial problems. It's not, he said. "The only way I know out is to work."

Nothing in life is free, and life is not easy, he said. It's hard, and it requires work. He said he believes the American work ethic has been the nation's strength for more than two centuries, and to send the message that there is an easy way out will not serve Americans in the long run.

The other four senators holding out against the lottery are Dan Clodfelter of Charlotte, Janet Cowell of Wake County, Ellie Kinnard of Carrboro and Martin Nesbitt of Buncombe County. Albertson noted that the five are all from different parts of the state and represent the will of many people from the mountains to the coast who believe a lottery would hurt poorer people, who are more likely to spend their money on lottery tickets.

Lawmakers will return to Raleigh in a few days to take up a number of unresolved issues, and the lottery will be one of them. Albertson said he knows the pressure on the five to change their votes will only increase.

The House has approved a lottery and most Democrats in the Senate are in favor of it. The Democrats hold the numerical advantage but the five holdouts have joined the Republican opponents to tie up the issue. Should there be a tie vote on the floor, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue would cast the deciding vote.

"I'm sure someone hopes the stars will line up just right and one of the five will be absent," Albertson said. "We have such a wonderful place to live in North Carolina and so much to be thankful for. When and if the lottery comes, it will diminish our state, and I believe we'll look back and be sorry it happened."