Rigged: The Shame of State-Run Lotteries
Finally, a third option would be to carve out exemptions for charities or non-profits. For instance, the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario runs a $2 million lottery. An idea with a similar motivation has been advocated by Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics fame: the “no-lose” lottery. Implemented in Michigan, the idea is that you deposit money in a participating bank or credit union, which then uses the combined interest to pay out lottery-like prizes, even though the player didn’t actually spend anything. Why hasn’t this been implemented more? It’s illegal in most states, because it would be competition.
Lotteries are bitter policy pills, because while it’s unlikely they’ll be repealed absent a major scandal, it’s not an exaggeration to say that no political ideology should support them. Conservatives and libertarians are against government programs, and especially against raising more revenue. It’s hard to imagine a principled conservative thinking a state monopoly whose sole purpose is to generate money is a good idea. Progressives, on the other hand, are adamant that protection of the poor and minorities is a responsibility of government, and that revenue should be raised by progressive means. But lotteries are terribly regressive, and actually rely on money from disadvantaged groups. Even though collecting revenue is important, we should remember that money is a means, common welfare the end—not the reverse.
Photo Credit: Dex1138
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