Some Disturbing Facts about the Lottery

Recently a $1 billion Powerball jackpot sent the nation into a frenzy. An article in The Week magazine entitled “Addicted to Lotteries” (02/12/16 p. 11) presents some sobering facts about our country’s “harmless” obsession.

People waited in 3-hour lines during the latest Powerball frenzy

People waited in 3-hour lines during the latest Powerball frenzy

  • Last year Americans spent $70 billion on lottery tickets. That’s more than what was spent in this country on video games, movie tickets, and sporting events combined.
  • Over half of all lottery tickets were purchased by just 5% of the population. This group “tend(s) to be poor and uneducated.” A Duke University study found that people with household incomes of less than $25,000 spend an average of $583 per year on the lottery (Upper income families spend about half that much). The educational differences are even more pronounced. High school dropouts spend around $700 while college graduates spend less than $200.
  • Lottery defenders generally claim that the money raised by state lotteries goes to support education. However, the states that do not have lotteries on average spend 10% more of their budgets on education than the states that do have lotteries.

“While the lotteries spend millions promoting their games as harmless entertainment and encouraging people to imagine themselves quitting their jobs and buying mansions–‘Hey, you never know,’ reads the New York lottery’s tagline–studies show that poorer players are 25% more likely than richer players to consider a ticket a genuine investment, and to vastly overestimate their chance of winning.”

The article concludes that lotteries are “just a tax in disguise” designed to exploit the poor. I have to agree.

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