At first, this seems like a change of pace for the hard-nosed, investigative Frontline series — an entertaining look at the lottery systems in various states, complete with jubilant winners and sour losers. But very quickly, Betting on the Lottery starts digging deeper, questioning the morality of a state-run contest that, we’re told, attracts most of its money from the underclass but disburses the lottery profits to state programs that rarely help the poor.
Writer-correspondent James Reston Jr. has a WASPish condescension in his voice as he interviews mostly lower-middle-class lottery winners, but he seems altogether charmed by the high-class, high-powered hype-mistress Sharon Sharp, Illinois’ lottery director. This gives the hour an odd spin — the facts lend sympathy to the losers, while Reston seems more intrigued by the exploiters. Still, for those of us who always mean to buy a lottery ticket but just can’t seem to remember, the various profiles of folks with lottery fever are fascinating. B