Lotteries are Unfairly Targeting Blacks, Poor as Jackpots Lure Players: Analysis

Last week’s historic $2.04 billion Powerball drawing led to criticism that lotteries are unjustly pressuring lower-income households across the US to purchase tickets, CNN claimed in a recent analysis.

Powerball ticket forms
Powerball ticket forms
Powerball ticket forms, pictured above. Analysts claim lotteries unfairly target the poor and minorities. (Image: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In fact, a 1999 National Gambling Impact Study Commission report revealed that black, low-income households, and high school dropouts are the most frequent lottery players, according to CNN.

“Lotteries are regressive, meaning lower-income groups spend more of their budgets on lottery games than higher-income groups,” CNN added.

Systemic Racism

Les Bernal, the national director of Stop Predatory Gambling, told CNN that the lottery results in “systemic racism.”

They’re hoping to pay their rent at the end of the month or pay an outstanding medical bill or put their kids through college, or they just lost their job and they’re just trying to find a way to make ends meet,” Bernal said. “And here you have what is a government program encouraging citizens to lose their money on rigged games.”

The high jackpots also mean there are unlikely odds of winning. The odds of winning last week’s Powerball drawing were 1 in 292.2 million.

But the payout is extraordinary. The winner in last week’s Powerball drawing will have the option of taking a one-time lump sum worth $997.6 million, or receiving the full value of the annuitized jackpot over 30 years. Both options are before federal and state taxes.

When the delayed Powerball drawing finally occurred last Tuesday, the California ticket holder became the richest lottery receipt in US history. The previous single largest lottery prize in the country’s history was a $1.537 billion Mega Millions prize won by a player in South Carolina in October 2018.

Over recent years, lottery ticket sales have increased from $47 billion since 2005 to $82 billion, according to the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, whose analysis was quoted by CNN.

Also, stores that sell lottery tickets are more likely to be in poorer communities, the Howard Center said.

“Critics say the consequence is that marginalized people will be driven into deeper debt by a system that is transferring wealth out of their communities,” said CNN’s Micquel Terry Ellis and Justin Gamble.

Rough Economy

Jonathan Cohen, author of “For a Dollar and a Dream: State Lotteries in Modern America,” said when challenging economic conditions and joblessness are present, many lottery players see the lottery as a way to make money.

David Just, a Cornell University economist, also told CNN that during rough economic conditions, people will take more risk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, lottery ticket sales increased, he said. At these times, people “have to sort of dream big and think that something, something great is gonna happen, that’s just gonna change everything,” Just said.

Last week’s winning Powerball ticket was sold at Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, Calif. The store’s owner, Joe Chahayed, hopes the winner is someone who lives in the local neighborhood.

So far, the lucky winner has not been identified.

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