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

By | November 14, 2022

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

Powerball ticket forms
Powerball ticket forms, pictured above. Analysis claims 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 and low-income folks, 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, also 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 added. “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. For instance, last week’s odds were one in 292.2 million.

But the payout is extraordinary. The winner in last week’s 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 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 which 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,” claim CNN’s Micquel Terry Ellis and Justin Gamble.

Rough Economy

But 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 folks will take more risk. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were more purchases of lottery tickets, he said.

At these times, “they 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 Powerball winning ticket was sold at Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, California.

The 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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