Lottery – Is it a Tax on the Poor?


Lottery is a game of chance, based on the distribution of prizes among ticket holders. The first recorded lotteries were held in the Low Countries during the 15th century to raise money for town fortifications and to help the poor. They were similar to those in use by Roman nobles at dinner parties where winners received a prize, such as fancy dinnerware, instead of cash.

People who play the lottery are typically covetous and seek a shortcut to wealth that will relieve them of the need to work hard for it. They may be tempted by advertisements that promise quick riches, or they might simply feel the inextricable human impulse to gamble. The question is whether governments should be in the business of promoting a vice, especially given the relatively minor share of budget revenue lotteries contribute to government spending.

Some of the proceeds from lottery sales are used for education, park services, and funds for seniors & veterans. In addition, some states allocate a percentage of their lottery revenues to other government programs such as infrastructure development, public safety and social welfare.

Some critics of the lottery argue that it functions as a “tax on the poor,” citing research showing that low-income Americans tend to purchase more tickets and spend a higher proportion of their income on them. Others argue that lotteries are a form of gambling and should be banned. Others argue that lotteries prey upon the desperation of people who have been failed by a system that offers them few real opportunities for economic mobility.