Jerry Kopel

Sometimes, major papers overlook important changes in who plays the state lottery. Stories arising from the 2003 state audit dealt with chumminess between lottery employees and contractors. None of them dealt with socioeconomic and demographic changes between the 1997 state audit and the 2003 state audit. Those audits show a major increase in population and players among African/ Americans and Hispanics.

The 1997 audit was based on a February 1997 study. The 2003 was based on April 2002 numbers supplied by Talmy-Drake Research Strategy.

Assuming the numbers are "accurate", white/Anglos have dropped from 84 percent to 76 percent of the state's population. They have also dropped from about 81 percent of the players to 70 percent.

Making up much of the difference has been the Hispanic population; six percent of the population in 1997 and 15 percent in 2003. In 1997, 7 to 8 percent were players. In 2003, they constituted 22 percent of the players. African Americans were three percent of the population in 1997 and four percent in 2003. Their participation in the lottery nearly doubled from 3.5 percent in 1997 to six percent in 2003.

So just between those two groups, they jumped from nine percent of population to 19 percent, and from 11 percent of players to 28 percent.

Colorado's elderly population (age 55 and older) climbed from 26 percent in 1997 to 34 percent in 2002. And their playing habits jumped slightly; 22 percent in 1997 and 34 percent in 2002.

More money to spend or more desperation?

The age group 25 to 44 was 46 percent of the population in 1997 and

36 percent in 2002. They aren't playing the lottery as much, a major switch from 51 percent in 1997 to 36 percent in 2002. Perhaps they have moved on to the casinos.

* * *

How about these headlines: "Newsmen accuse lottery of seeking 'kickbacks' for ads", and "Junction editor charges lottery ad 'shakedown'". If you guessed 2003 you were wrong. The headlines were from Colorado newspapers in December 1982. The lottery began operations in early 1983.

The story from the Denver Post, Dec. 2, 1982: "Karsh & Hagen Advertising, a Denver firm which is handling the advertising account for the new $60 million lottery, has sent a letter to newspaper executives and broadcasters around the state, informing them that lottery officials will 'review and allocate funds' according to the amount of news coverage and free advertising provided by each such organization."

In the Rocky Mountain News, Dec. 2, 1982: "What the Karsh and Hagen letter spells out is a request for a guaranteed kickback, plain and simple" said David McLean, managing editor of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel....Tom Mullen, editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph said..."I haven't heard of anything like that in all my years in the business.."

Karsh and Hagen's account executive told the Post they were trying to "find out which people were ready to help the lottery. We tried to word it very carefully so that nobody would take offense, but obviously we didn't do a good job."

Advertising people quoted in the Post story saw nothing amiss about the letter. One said "People who work in the advertising field don't know what our news ethics would be. Obviously we would not make any promises of news coverage."

In another Post story "Owen Hickey, the lottery director, said advertising decisions 'absolutely will not' be made on any connection with news coverage. He added that Karsh's agency 'will continue to handle our advertising.'"

In a follow up story in the Rocky Mountain News "Karsh said he also spoke with press association officials. 'They assured me the whole thing was a 'tempest in a teapot' - their words, he said."

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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