The Tax On Dumb Poor People, Bought YOUR Lotto Ticket Today?

by Ravi

“Oh Damn!” I said – frustrated that my memory was so lousy, “we’re almost back to the highway and I need gas – there’s not any stations ahead”.  I swung the car around – Lola’s head already bobbing as sleep overtook her after an oh- so-very-exciting 3rd birthday party (her first birthday party).

At the first quick-stop gas station I pulled in and dragged my tired daddy self into the  junk food-like-substance crammed isles of the harsh fluorescent-lit  “convenience” store. (every wonder what was “convenient” about a store full of truly horrible, fake foods, health-debilitating sugar/HFCS drinks and worthless junk products?  I guess keeping them in one place where we can effective ignore them IS convenient – at least for some of us…) .

The quick stop was in the south valley – a poor, mostly immigrant/illegal/multi- generation Hispanic community in south-west Albuquerque.

“Aaaach” I thought to myself, seeing the 7 people in line ahead of me – the clerk taking her good ol’time with each one.

And so I took a deep breath, crossed my arms, waited my turn – and watched. Quietly.

Customer #1: diet coke, 5 lotto tickets, scraping for the change having a hard time communicating as the clerk’s Spanish was poor.

Customer #2: took the better part of 3 minutes to instruct the clerk to find the right “soft pak Marlboroughs” , 2 lotto tickets, dug around in wallet to buy

Customer #3: diet pepsi, cigs, lotto ticket, laid out carefully counted exact change

Customer #4: spent 2+ minutes trying to get clerk to grab correct snuff can, 2 lotto tickets

Customer #5: friend of clerk – chit chat as 5 lotto tickets bought – oh yea forgot the smokes.

Customer #6: 2 lotto, 6 pak diet coke, cigs

Customer #7: just ahead of me: ONE lotto, candy bar, digs for the exact change

“You can’t believe the scene I just watched” I shared with Sunna back in the car and I told her the details, being myself still a bit confused by what I had just witnessed.

Realizing my Own Bias about the Lotto Dumb-People Tax

It’s easy to toss out the derogatory slur that the lottery is a “tax on stupid people”, and, although a mildly amusing one-liner,  it’s also just not that simple. In all candor – that is rather the attitude with which I started this post – but just a little googling and reading set me up for a very different understanding.

I don’t believe in “victim-hood” -I believe that, on many levels, we all choose exactly the experiences we have in this reality.  This belief – or rather intuition – does not in any way relieve one of or dispense with compassion as it is still painful to see our fellow beings trapping themselves in hopeless behavior and/or patterns – and gambling is one of those traps.

Poverty in our consumerist culture is a blinding, numbing  – even crippling experience. After being taunted daily – no, actually in every minute with the abundance and absolute prodigious material wealth of the movie stars, politicians and the other well-known rich and famous, exposure to unending poverty in the face of such excess can only be excruciating to those not yet realizing the trap into which they have quite purposefully been put – either by the perverse social plan, by fate, or by themselves.  The seemingly cruel and almost impossible trick is to see through this trap into the clear space of self-realization beyond the fog.

The hardest part in observing all of this and learning what I have by actually looking at the issue (what I never did till now…),  is to extend that same compassion to those so obviously and mercilessly preying on the weaknesses and yet-unawareness of so many desperate others.

So – enter the lotto.

Even the most minuscule spec of hope to have themselves access this certainly exalted happy state of unlimited material wealth drives people with incomes at and well below the poverty line to spend up to 5 to 20% or their income on lottery tickets **regularly**.  Estimates of 50% to 80% of all lotto “jackpots” comes from at or below poverty level ticket buyers. 

And – the people who design the lotto are fully aware of this. Even worse – lotto is designed and targeted to prey on exactly those people – desperate to extricated themselves from poverty.  They believe- with wholly naive and mistaken conviction – that they can win and winning will make them happy, content human beings. The chance of either is statistically much smaller than being bit by lightning.

Here’s a quote from The Arkanasas News article on the demographics and tendencies on various LOTTO games in the states:

“Most of the studies that have been done on lotteries over the years have tended to show one of two things: Either that it’s regressive and that low-income families tend to spend more of their money on the lottery than other income groups, or … it tends to be low-income groups and the minorities who tend to play more, in terms of frequent players,” he said.

Christian organizations often see part of their mission to reform gamblers and so have quite some good data and experience on the intentional demographic intent of Lotto-makers. From The Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council:

Gambling is not the “painless” tax that gambling promoters like to claim. Rather, it is a highly regressive form of taxation that thrives by inducing false hopes among the financially destitute. Government’s multibillion-dollar annual take from gambling activities comes disproportionately from the pockets of America’s poor. This has been most clearly evidenced in numerous statewide studies of lottery behavior over the last couple of decades. However, as casinos, racetracks and the like are made more accessible, it has become increasingly clear that all forms of gambling prey heavily on those with meager financial resources.

The possibility of winning so infinitesimally small by purchasing a ticket, compared to NOT purchasing a ticket – well – that’s a bit of a joke as well.

Here’s some numbers (thank to Paulding Blog):

The odds of a “Lotto” style lottery can be found with the formula: n! / (n – r)! r! where n is the highest numbered ball and r is the number of balls chosen. This is called in math a combination. An easier way to think about it is if there are 40 balls and 6 are chosen, there are 40 possible numbers that can come up first, leaving 39 that can come up second, then 38, 37, 36, and finally 35 on the final number.

To find out how many numbers that is you multiply 40 ×39 ×38 ×37 ×36 × 35 = 2,763,633,600 making the odds 2 and a half billion to one. You odds of being struck by lightning are roughly 6 to 7  times higher than winning such a lotto.

What or who has taken over this country?  We make sure that the rich get richer and poor get poorer (yes – an age old tale) but then we allow our own government to prey on these people – allowing immoral corporations to create and feed them the worst, cheap food-like non-food which sickens them physically and psychologically, we “school” them – (NOT educate) so they become dumb and/or stay dumb and we then allow every sort of corporate and governmental vulture to strip whatever is left of their existence with utterly deceitful and false hopes and dreams.

Being human and seeing what your fellow humans are capable of is becoming a management exercise in utter self-disgust.

Finally, Here’s a very good article and a quote on the intentional scamming of the poor by  Mark Lange of the Christian Science Monitor.

Clearly, America’s appetite for what industry officials benignly call “gaming” has grown. It’s all legal, so what’s the big deal? Here’s the scandal: In 1999, the bipartisan National Gambling Impact Commission found that 80 percent of gambling revenue comes from households with incomes of less than $50,000 a year.

Hop on out and get your weekly one-in-2.5 billion chance – c’mon – it’s only a couple bucks…

Do you play lotto? Knowing the odds, why?

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One Response to The Tax On Dumb Poor People, Bought YOUR Lotto Ticket Today?

  1. Kelli says:

    When I was a really young child I use to walk with my grandmother to the gas station downtown so she could by her weekly lottery tickets. She lived on social security and a small pension left by her husband yet she continued to buy these tickets when I hardly ever heard about anyone actually winning. And this gas station was located in one of the poorest districts in the city.

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