The other day, my wife let me know that she bought a lottery ticket. It’s not a habit, but when the jackpot reaches a record level and starts making headlines, she jumps on the bandwagon along with many others.
There’s a reason we don’t buy lottery tickets on a regular basis. It’s a waste of money. Beyond that, we are fortunate enough to avoid the struggle which motivates many to turn to such a fantasy. If not for the headlines about an $800 million Powerball, the thought of buying a ticket would never cross our minds.
A recent op-ed over at The Christian Post reminds us who more routinely funds lottery revenue, namely the poorest among us. Contributor Jordan Ballor writes:
Public polling has confirmed the fears of many who oppose such government-promoted gambling: the poorest among us are contributing much more to lottery revenues than those with higher incomes. One poll found that people who played the lottery with an income of less than $20,000 annually spent an average of $46 per month on lottery tickets. That comes out to more than $550 per year and it is nearly double the amount spent in any other income bracket.
The significance of this is magnified when we look deeper into the figures. Those with annual incomes ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 had the second-highest average — $24 per month, or $288 per year. A person making $20,000 spends three times as much on lottery tickets on average than does someone making $30,000.
And keep in mind that these numbers represent average spending. For every one or two people who spend just a few bucks a year on lotteries, others spend thousands.
The lottery thus stands as a most obvious form of regressive taxation, masked by its opt-in nature. But preying on the desperate hopes of the poor is no less vicious than stealing from them outright. Perhaps the time has come to reevaluate the practice.