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