COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The leader of a black citizens group is upset at an Ohio Lottery promotional campaign he says singles out blacks to boost instant-ticket sales.
Fliers appearing earlier this month in black-owned newspapers in Columbus and Cleveland offered a buy-one-get-one-free scratch-off ticket coupon.
The Rev. John Coats, president of the Ohio Coalition of Concerned Black Citizens, said the fliers were "targeting the black community in a major way. I don't see any difference between what the lottery commission is doing and the way we are targeted (by advertisers) for malt liquor."
The coupon also was placed inside copies of Parade magazine circulated with newspapers in Akron, Cambridge, Cleveland, Elyria, Hamilton, Middletown, New Philadelphia, Portsmouth and Toledo.
"You have to pick something," said Mardele Cohen, deputy director of the commission. "We wanted to make sure we included minority areas, too."
The commission projects a $25 million shortfall of payments to Ohio schools for the fiscal year ending June 30, mostly because of lower Super Lotto Plus sales.
Coats also said the promotion was trying to take advantage of the poor.
"Where there is despair, people will try to reach out for a pipe dream in hope of getting rich," he said.
Another black leader disputed the contentions.
"I've never been convinced the lottery targets people by race," said state Sen. Mark L. Mallory, D-Cincinnati.
Mallory said he has heard the opposite complaints from black advertisers and black-owned radio stations, saying the commission doesn't do enough business with them.
Cohen said 87,307 instant-ticket coupons were redeemed during the offer's first week. That's an 8.7 percent rate of return on about 1 million inserts.
"If it's something that makes money for us, it is something we'd do again," she said.