The Lottery and Its Dangerous Effects on Low-Income Families

Lottery, in its most basic form, involves a contest in which numbers are drawn for a prize. Almost every modern state has one, and the public spends billions on it each year. As Cohen puts it, for politicians coping with fiscal crises and facing an increasingly tax-averse electorate, the lottery “seemed like a budgetary miracle, a way for states to make revenue appear seemingly out of thin air.”

But as the numbers game became more popular, voters began demanding larger prizes and the odds of winning got worse. This is counterintuitive, because the more difficult it is to win a jackpot, the more people will buy tickets. Eventually, winners are required to keep only about half of the prize pool, and the rest goes to costs and profits, as well as promotional expenses.

The other issue is that the lottery’s design invites addiction. Its advertising, math, and even the look of the ticket are all designed to nudge players toward the next purchase. That’s a strategy not unlike the ones tobacco companies and video-game makers employ, but it’s unusual to see such behavior under the auspices of the government.

And yet, despite all the warnings, people continue to play. For many, it’s a harmless pastime, a chance to fantasize about wealth at a cost of just a few bucks. For others, however—especially those with the lowest incomes—it’s a serious drain on their budget. Numerous studies have shown that low-income Americans are disproportionately likely to play, and as the economy eroded in the seventies and eighties, their hopes for a secure financial future dwindled too.

By purethoughtshorserescue
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