“Consider that for state-run lotteries as a whole, only about 60 cents of every dollar goes back to ticket buyers in the form of winnings, an analysis of United States Census Bureau data shows. The flip side is that in the long run, players as a group lose about 40 percent of the money they put into the lottery, and the chances of a big win are vanishingly small.”
“According to Bill Nye, the lottery acts as a tax on those who can least afford it. Most of the people who play the lottery statistically come from lower income and lower education backgrounds. This means that those who are measuring every dollar they earn may misguidedly waste crucial funds on the lottery, spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on a slim chance that they could win, even though it’s massively likely that they never will.”
“States spend millions on promoting the lottery. In 2011, Oregon’s ad budget was $26.6 million over a two year period; in Ohio, the state used to time advertisements for its Super Lotto game to coincide with the delivery of Social Security and government benefit checks. Poor people are the primary targets of these campaigns—a fact that has made some of my interactions with lottery players uneasy. Multiple customers have told that they spend around $3,000 each year on the lottery and never win. Each person said they continue to play ‘because it’s fun.'”
“People spent more money playing the lottery last year than on books, video games, and tickets for movies and sporting events combined.
“In an age of rising income inequality, it’s pernicious that states rely on monetizing the desperate hope of its poorest residents. State lotteries take from the poor to spare the rich, all while marching under the banner of voluntary entertainment. Banning lotto games will not make our poorest communities suddenly rich. But these neighborhoods have lost enough lotteries in life even before they touch a penny to the scratch-off ticket.”
“Over at the Washington Post, Brad Plumer looks into the question of whether a wealthy person could guarantee himself a win by buying every possible ticket in the Mega Millions lottery, and discovers that the answer is no:”
Is it ethical for the government to run a lottery? Is the government profiting from people’s ignorance? If so is that unethical? What about how the lottery is advertised?
Is it unethical to take advantage of people’s mathematical ignorance? What about casinos?
“Government should not be in the business of exploiting the cognitive deficiencies of its citizens for monetary gain. Right? But state lotteries do just that.”