What we're 'learning' from the Education Lottery

Here's what Tom Shaheen, NC's Lottery Czar, said in September:

Lottery to phase in bigger instant-win prizes

N.C. Education Lottery Director Tom Shaheen said Wednesday that all scratch-off games for sale in North Carolina won't have bigger prize payouts until early spring of 2008. But more will be available in the next few months.

Instant-win games are a mainstay of the lottery, making up nearly 60 percent of tickets sold. But sales have lagged behind projections, in part because neighboring states offer better odds, Shaheen said. Even a $2 win helps drive regular players to buy more tickets, he said. "They want to win a prize," he said.

The legislature allowed the lottery to increase prize payouts -- and decrease the percentage of profits set aside for education -- in this year's budget.

Here's what a bunch of pointy-headed academics said, as reported in the New York Times today.

Lottery boon raises concern

But critics in Texas and elsewhere say games promising this kind of instant gratification are more likely to contribute to the kind of problem gambling that is usually associated with fast-paced casino betting, and they are now trying to limit them.

They say the games take particular advantage of the most vulnerable members of society, including the poor and members of minority groups. “Scratch-off tickets are to the lottery what crack is to cocaine,” said State Senator Eliot Shapleigh, a Democrat who represents El Paso.

We have known all along that state-sponsored gambling would become a perverted story of co-dependency between cowardly legislators who don't have the nerve to properly fund government services) and lower-income citizens who hope against hope that they'll strike it rich before they gamble themselves into into full-fledged poverty.


I have mixed feelings about the lottery.

I don't think it's any way to fund education. I think it's stupid. Education funding should not be left to chance.

I also think that it's nobody's business to tell anyone - no matter what their income level is - how to spend their money. I suppose that's a bit of a libertarian streak coming out in me, but there you have it. I stuck scratch off tickets in xmas stockings because their cheap fun. And I bought my son a "merry millionaire" ticket because it was worth $20 to me to see if he wins a million bucks tonight. ::shrug:: To me it's the same as going to a horse race and betting on your favorite to win. It's just that the state is doing it.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Why mixed feelings?

It's just that the state is doing it.

Makes all the difference in the world, especially to that "libertarian streak," no?

It's just a small streak.

I don't know. It doesn't make a difference to me, honestly. I am not opposed to a lottery in theory. I am opposed to basic funding for education coming from it. So at this point, I'm more concerned with how the lottery revenues will be used than whether or not we should have one. I'd like to see the lottery revenues put in a special fund for educational projects that can't be funded in other ways.

I'd like to see the legislature mandate progressive funding for education for birth through college age so that families like mine don't have to hope that their 18 year old wins the lottery in order to afford a decent college education, and that families like my neighbors don't have to rely on dangerous, sub-standard child care while they're out working trying to make ends meet.

But I don't want anyone telling me how I should spend that dollar I just spent on a scratch off ticket, you know?

So it's just a small libertarian streak. :)

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

You can spend your money any

You can spend your money any way you want.

When the government spends our money, however, that money shouldn't be gotten from gambling.

And yes, if education is important to us, it shouldn't be funded with extra money. It should be budgeted for, and the expense of educating the young people of the state should be borne by all citizens of the state. Kinda like building roads, or having a fire department.

Could you imagine if the legislature decided to make hiring state troopers conditional on whether or not enough lottery tickets were sold?

The state gets money from gambling all the time.

If you win money in Vegas, or on a horse race, you are supposed to report that as income. And if you want to stretch the metaphor a little, putting money in the stock market is a bit of a gamble, isn't it? It's even referred to as "playing the market". That income is taxable as well.

There are two different issues here. One is the moral issue of gambling. The other is how should the revenue of the lottery be spent. For me, the moral issue is moot. If you have a problem with gambling, don't gamble.

However, as I stated, and you agreed - don't leave educational funding up to chance. We would not do that with other essential services. We shouldn't do it with education.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

one of the few

I personally have no problem with the lottery, guess I am strange that way.

"jump in where you can and hang on"
Briscoe Darling to Sheriff Andy