State Lotteries: Advocating a Social Ill for the Social Good. (Reflections)

By Heberling, Michael | Independent Review, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

State Lotteries: Advocating a Social Ill for the Social Good. (Reflections)


Heberling, Michael, Independent Review


Fifty years ago, anyone caught "playing the numbers" might be in serious trouble with the law. At that time, the government acted as if protecting citizens from the evils of gambling was one of its inherent responsibilities. Today, Americans legally bet more than $36 billion a year on the lotteries in thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia (Bresiger 1998). These gambling operations are not only state sanctioned, they are state run and state promoted as well. How could such a complete turnaround have taken place?

In almost every case, the lottery was presented to state legislators as a means of raising revenues without having to raise taxes. Not surprisingly, this option had a great appeal to both Republicans and Democrats. The "puritanical" objections to filling state coffers by means of a gambling scheme were quickly diffused by three arguments. First, because people are going to gamble in any event, it is better to place that gambling within the protection of the law rather than to leave it in the seamy environs of gangsters and thugs (Simon 1997). Second, the lottery is one of the most benign forms of gambling. Many do not even consider it "real gambling." Spending a dollar's worth of loose change on a lottery ticket every once in a while bears little resemblance to gambling at Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Besides--the third argument--it's for a "good cause." All remaining misgivings about the state's promotion of a vice disappear when the promoters make clear that all proceeds will be used "for the children" or for some other honorable cause. Eighteen states earmark their lottery revenues for education. Pennsylvania's lottery supports its senior citizen programs.

Once adopted, the lottery certainly delivered as advertised. This painless revenue windfall was treated as if it were manna from heaven. State legislators across the country came to view this "voluntary tax" as a permanent wellspring that released revenues in the general fund for a multitude of other uses. Funds previously earmarked for education were diverted to meet an endless list of "worthy unmet needs." As long as the lottery money continued to roll in, nobody saw the lottery for what it had become: a legislative "bait-and-switch" funding game.

The lottery euphoria, however, almost always subsides as the game's novelty starts to wear off. This cooling usually occurs four or five years into the program. As ticket sales plummet, the dark side of the government's shell game becomes visible. Because the lottery revenues no longer cover the education (or other specific) funding requirements as advertised, some form of corrective action (or coercion) becomes necessary. The options most frequently selected are not pretty: raising taxes, beefing up the ad campaign to entice new players, and devising new, more exciting (and addictive) versions of the game. Most states end up pursuing all three options.

Raising Taxes

The ephemeral infusion of lottery dollars always results in prodigal spending, which, in turn, forces state legislators to raise taxes in order to shore up the budgetary shortfalls that develop when lottery revenue sags. Legislators keep their fingers crossed and hope that nobody remembers that the lottery was supposed to have made additional taxes unnecessary. Obfuscation about proceeds earmarked "for the children" will also keep people from asking probing and potentially embarrassing questions such as, "What happened to all the education money that was in the general fund?" A study by Money magazine found that from 1990 to 1995 taxes grew three times faster in lottery states than in nonlottery states. In 1971, Governor Thomas Meskill of Connecticut successfully lobbied for a lottery by arguing, "Giving people the choice to raise money purchasing lottery tickets will let your state hold the line on taxes." In 1991, however, Connecticut legislators enacted the state's first income tax even though lottery sales had reached $671 million in the previous year (Keating 1996). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

State Lotteries: Advocating a Social Ill for the Social Good. (Reflections)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.