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July 15, 2022

This Just In: Lotteries Rob the Poor

It’s no surprise that our money-grubbing state lotteries disproportionately hit those who can afford it least.

Politicians — especially those on the Left — claim to care about the working class and the poor.

In reality, though, they care a lot more about padding the government’s coffers at the expense of those who struggle to make ends meet. And while Democrats are always prattling on about “making the rich pay their fair share,” they don’t mind preying on poor folks to fill in budget gaps and help pad their enviable pensions.

Lower-income earners may not have to pay any federal or even state income taxes, but there are other ways government gets its hands into the pockets of the down-and-out. Runaway inflation is one. Everything is more expensive these days, and, naturally, it’s hitting the poor the hardest.

But there’s another way in which government makes the poor pay: state lotteries.

It’s common knowledge that low-income Americans are drawn to lotteries more than others, but now we’re learning why. It’s one thing for government to operate lotteries for additional “revenue,” but it’s quite another to intentionally target low-income communities.

As CBS News reports: “Lotteries now operate in all but five U.S. states. Driven by more than a half-billion dollars in annual ad spending, lottery ticket sales have grown from $47 billion to $82 billion since 2005, according to La Fleur’s 2022 World Lottery Almanac. In 10 states, lotteries generate more revenue than corporate income taxes.”

In other words, the poor are paying taxes. Plenty of taxes. They just don’t know it.

As CBS continues: “A 1999 report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission found the top 10% of lottery spenders accounted for two-thirds of sales. The most frequent players, the study found, had lower incomes, were high school dropouts and disproportionately Black.”

More recently, a study conducted by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland reveals that lotteries in most states are disproportionately placed in communities with high poverty and majority black or Hispanic residents. As it turns out, those urban poverty plantations are even more insidious than we thought.

Despite the popular notion that lottery proceeds are putting books and supplies in the hands of public school children, money collected from people who often use rent or food money to purchase lottery tickets isn’t helping their communities at all.

Once the money is collected, a significant portion of education spending is spent in wealthier school districts. Other states simply take non-lottery education spending and funnel it into other parts of the budget, and then replenish the deficit with lottery proceeds. In the end, they claim lotteries are funding education without increasing education spending.

An organization called Stop Predatory Gambling released a report in 2020 with evidence that a broad expansion of gambling opportunities in these communities increased poverty rates and led to higher instances of gambling addiction. “A nation of small earners, who could be small savers,” it concludes, “has been turned into a nation of habitual gamblers on course to lose more than $1 trillion of personal wealth to state-sanctioned lotteries and local casinos over the next eight years.”

It adds: “When states bring in lotteries, the almost sole focus has been to maximize profits, not protect the public interest. That’s because a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict exists between the interests of state lotteries and the public good: the state is charged with protecting the public from the very business practices that generate more revenue for the state.”

In the near term, there’s no way to stop the broad expansion of lotteries and casinos around the country. But maybe there’s an opportunity here — an opportunity for conservatives to put the lie to the Left’s tired claim that we’re only concerned with “The Rich”; an opportunity to call out these lotteries and the predatory practices they use against the poorest of Americans.

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