I turned 18 in 1998; lottery wasn’t legal in my state then, but I went to college close to the border, and sometimes friends and I would hop over the line and get a ticket and some cheap gas (Georgia stations were selling it at $0.75/gallon for a while back then!) and a (1 dollar) lottery ticket. We probably did this six or seven times during my freshman year. When they legalized the lottery in my state a few years later, I probably played a couple times, just for the novelty. My husband put in a few dollars a week with some co-workers for a while several years back. I don’t think either of us has bought a single ticket, or even really thought about it, in years, despite the fact that we certainly visit places that sell tickets several times a week, pass billboards for it on a daily basis, and are subject to some of the most irritating radio and TV commercials for it ever written.
The devious slogan for the New York State lottery is “All you need is a dollar and a dream.” Such state lotteries are a regressive form of taxation, since the vast majority of lottery consumers are low-income. The statistics are bleak: Twenty percent of Americans are frequent players, spending about $60 billion a year. The spending is also starkly regressive, with lower income households being much more likely to play. A household with income under $13,000 spends, on average, $645 a year on lottery tickets, or about 9 percent of all income.
How many times have you heard some variation on “the rich are different from you and me”? I think, instead, that the poor are the ones that are different. The more I see in life, the more I see that, by and large (but of course, not without exceptions), the poor stay poor because they do things that make them poor. Things that seem not only stupid but outright bizarre to me. It’s not just throwing away significant amounts of all too scarce money on a “dream” (more like a fantasy) of a lottery, it’s a whole slew of things that demonstrate similar poor planning and lack of forethought, and an overall failure to accept that success almost always takes work and patience.