The relationship between the lottery and the economy is a complicated one. Although the $2 price tag is relatively small to pay for the enjoyment of fantasizing one’s life with a vast amount of wealth, where and from whom those $2 come makes a difference.
When profiling the individuals who purchase lottery tickets compared to those who do not there is a strong class divide. The majority of people who buy lottery tickets come from low-income, less educated, communities of color. Each year state lotteries take away about 9% of the take home income from households making less than $13,000 a year. For majority of these households a $2 ticket each week does make a difference financially in comparison to the chance of actually winning. According to the Multi-State Lottery Association the chances of winning the grand prize is about 1 in 175 million. With a chance of winning so low, is it really worth the fantasy?
In addition to preying on lower income households, the lottery takes money away from local businesses, exactly what a struggling economy does not need. In 2012, Americans spent about $65.5 billion on lottery tickets and this number has been steadily increases since the first state lottery in 1965. However, if that same amount of money were redistributed into the local economy instead of into the lottery, an economic boost would be inevitable. In addition to taking billions out of the economy, the lottery redistributes money up the economic ladder, which is exact opposite of what a struggling economy needs.
In addition to preying on local businesses and low-income households, the lottery is a hypocritical statement in comparison to anti-drug policies. State drug laws are in place in order to reduce harm to individuals, families, and the society as a whole from the adverse effects of addiction. But how is playing the lottery any different from gambling? Gambling is a highly addictive behavior that has the potential to cause the same adverse effects such as violence, money troubles, and deception.
Best-case scenario if an individual does win the story is not always happily ever after. The biggest winners often see their lives unravel after millions are deposited into their bank account. The enormous lifestyle change can destroy families, disrupt friendships, violence and more. Many of the big winners struggle to manage this enormous amount of money due to lack of experience and therefore end up spending the money quickly and frivolously.
Although the lottery provides governments basic services for schools, police force, and roads, the consequences outweigh the benefits, especially when considering the population the consequences affect the most.