In response to Julia Grant’s column of Feb. 2 (State Lottery Will Move Mississippi Forward), I offer an alternative viewpoint while simultaneously agreeing with her that we “must eradicate poor and unequal education in the state.” A state lottery, however, is a bad idea.
Contrary to the notion that a state lottery generates an enormous revenue stream, the reality is that a lottery is ineffective at producing new revenue but merely redistributes existing revenue.
From data cited by Beckert and Lutter (2013) in their paper on class-based lottery play, the average US household spends $162 annually on lottery tickets — this is not new money, but money that is re-allocated from other priorities in order to play the lottery, translating into less money being spent for home mortgages, rent, food, transportation, entertainment, education, clothing and medicine.
Moreover, a state lottery is very expensive to maintain.
The John Locke Foundation’s analysis of the North Carolina Lottery (2001) revealed that for every dollar raised by the lottery, an additional 52 cents was needed to pay for expenses of raising that dollar. Such figures are typical across the board for state lotteries, making them economically inefficient.
Furthermore, according to Jones (2013), lotteries fail to increase state education budgets significantly and may cause an overall decrease in state education budgets by “crowd(ing) out charitable donations to education without an accompanying increase in state expenditures” (p. 9). Again, this is more evidence of lotteries simply redistributing existing income.
Like Ms. Grant, I support contacting our legislators to make our wishes known. I just don’t wish for a state lottery, which is, as Ambrose Bierce once said, “a tax on people who are bad at math.”
Morris Baker is an Adjunct Professor of Leadership and Counselor Education and Director of the Baptist Student Union.
Read the column “State Lottery Will Move Mississippi Forward” here