The Official Lottery – The Truth About the Official Lottery

Official Lottery

When state governments first began offering lotteries in the mid-twentieth century, advocates promoted them as a way to fill government coffers without raising taxes. But their claims lacked both empirical substance and moral weight. The money a lottery generated was not enough to fund much of the actual business of running a state, and it did nothing to reduce state dependence on federal grants and other aid. Moreover, the revenue was distributed in ways that made it almost impossible for poor people to benefit from it.

The biggest lotteries generate substantial profits, but it’s important to keep in mind that they do so by enticing people to gamble and then capturing their winnings. This logic, which argues that people are going to gamble anyway so the state might as well profit from it, is flawed. It ignores how states’ gambling policies contribute to the problem of addictive gambling, as well as the fact that, by enticing new gamblers to participate, they are creating future generations of problem gamblers.

Lottery sales are responsive to economic fluctuations. Generally speaking, they increase as incomes decline and unemployment rises. They also spike in neighborhoods that are disproportionately poor, Black, or Latino. In these neighborhoods, the advertising for lottery products is often most visible. As a result, the most visible ads are for prizes that appeal to lower-income people. Those same advertisements bolster the myth that the lottery is helping low-income families. But the truth is that it isn’t.

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