Top 10 Reasons to Ban the Lottery
Americans from almost every state, including Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, have a chance to strike it big by playing one of many games offered in the lottery. From Powerball to scratch cards, millions of Americans play the lottery every day. If you have never played the lottery then you almost certainly know people who have.
While everyone knows someone who plays the lottery in some form, few people know anyone who has ever won. Of course, there is that lucky person who seems to continuously win $20 from pile of scratch cards, but as a whole, few people know anyone who has ever won a Powerball jackpot worth a few million dollars.
The lottery has become a divisive issue in many states precisely because of this reason. Virtually nobody wins the lottery, and when they do, the fees, taxes and scam services that come out of the checks reduce the winnings from possible millions to the hundreds of thousands. Even if you do win, it seems that winning is not as profitable as they make it out to be.
But, the real reason that the lottery has become so divisive is not because Americans are a bunch of sore losers. It is because the lottery essentially works as a state tax, though it does not advertise itself as one. A high proportion of the lottery revenues go into the state budget and come out again as funding for public works. Though this on its own is not a bad thing.
The problem with the lottery is that it is a tax that is unfairly levied on the most vulnerable people in America. Those who are uneducated or poor are far more likely to play the lottery than those with comfortable incomes and college degrees. In fact, reports say that vulnerable groups spend twice as much on lottery tickets.
The lottery is a predatory tax excised by the government on the most vulnerable people in our society. The advertising makes players believe that they improving social systems or are buying a chance at a better life when the data demonstrates that they are not. As if this were not enough, here are ten more reasons that the lottery should be banned.
Lotteries Take Billions of Dollars Out of the Economy
Since 2008, the government has worked to encourage healthy spending to help get the economy back on track. When the market crashed and the credit crunch became crippling, people stopped spending both the money they do have and the money they don’t have.
Yet, Americans spent $50.4 billion on lottery tickets in 2009 alone. This takes $50.4 billion out of the economy and puts it in the states pocket. Out of that $50.4 billion, the state took home around $17.6 billion. The rest of the money spent running the lottery costs around 8% of the sales. In total, between $21 and $22 billion of all ticket sales disappear into the government’s pocket.
If that money went into consumer spending, or better yet, consumer saving, the state of the average American’s finances would be much improved.
Lotteries Work as a Tax on the Poor
You can play the lottery in most of the 50 states, and you can play the lottery in Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. The lottery was designed to be a clever way to excise more taxes from citizens without having to officially raise the income or sales tax levels. The humanitarian spin they take has made them very popular.
However, the lottery has remained extremely popular among Americans who simply cannot afford to play the lottery. A recent study by researchers at Cornell University showed that “individuals with lower incomes substitute lottery play for other entertainment…low income consumers may view lotteries as a convenient and otherwise rare opportunity for radically improving their standard of living…we…find a strong and positive relationship between sales and poverty rates.”
The data that supports these findings suggests that households that bring in less than $25,000 each year spend nearly $600 on lottery tickets annually. However, households spending over $100,000 only spent around half of that, and $300 is not a significant amount of money for a house hold with a six figure income. Even $600 is not a significant amount of money to spend annually for these people, but it is a large amount for households making less than $25,000.
Lotteries Target Uneducated Communities
In a study the preceded Cornell’s, Duke University found that people who have attained higher levels of education spend significantly less money on lottery tickets. While a college graduate may spend $178 each year, a college dropout might spend $700 each year on average. That is a huge disparity both in education and in lottery spending.
These studies found that the lottery gained most of its money from those who could least afford it. This provides grounds to the claim that the lottery takes money from the poor and gives it to the rich. Whether or not this is true, the lottery certainly does not take money from the poor and give it back to the poor.
Hence, as a government institution that knowingly and willingly preys on the most vulnerable members of society, the lottery should be banned.
Lotteries Encourage Wrong Information about Poverty
Getting out of poverty is not as simple as receiving a large sum of money from a friend, relative or even the government. By promoting the lottery and offering it as a state-sponsored chance to get rich quick, the government is telling its poorest citizens, who are the biggest investors in the lottery, that they can climb out of their hole with only a single scratch card.
Poverty is a complicated issue that is about more than a bank balance. Understanding poverty is something that sociologists have been working on for years. This is because poverty is a state of mind as well as a financial situation. Poverty includes having inadequate access to material, cultural and social resources that are vital to living a financially successful life.
Poverty also includes social exclusion. When the poor are social excluded and not able to participate fully in society, the problem of poverty is perpetuated. This is why those who are forced to live in poor housing or high crime environments end up seeing generations of all three kinds of poverty despite their best efforts at climbing out.
Solving poverty requires more than the big check that the government suggests is a cure-all. $1 million or even $100 million can be squandered in no time by people who do not understand how to carefully and effectively use money. When the lack of education that is a hallmark of poverty is combined with the poor access to social and cultural resources, many poor lottery winners end up in worse situations when they started off in.
Instead of spending money to improve the resources available to those who are perpetually poor, the government lottery spends its money telling poor people to spend their money on scratch cards and power ball tickets.
Lotteries Enable Gambling, Which Is an Addictive Behavior
The states and the federal government have poured millions, billions and in some cases even trillions of dollars into prevent those with addictive behaviors from finding their vices. The government outlaws drugs, runs negative ads about cigarettes and imposes punishments on those who misuse alcohol in public.
Gambling is an addictive behavior that not only ruins finances, but can become very dangerous. When gamblers get involved with illegal or underground gambling, there are huge consequences to pay for those who often fail to pay up. But instead of banning the lottery, the state governments promote it. The government spends huge amounts of money not only promoting the lottery system but promoting it during prime time so that huge number of people will see it.
Instead of warning citizens about the dangers of compulsive gambling, the government encourages citizens to get involved. They play up the amount of money that is donated to charities to encourage the feel good factor. However, addictive personalities do not need to be motivated by charitable contributions to enjoy gambling. It is the thrill of winning and losing that drives them to the stores.
It is generally recognized in the psychological community that gambling is a problem for those who have addictive personalities. Unfortunately, the lottery moves to fast and changes to frequently for scientists to get concrete data and the true effects of the lottery on state populations.