Largest Jackpot

May 16, 2000

Last week people stood in line just to buy a lottery ticket to the largest jackpot in U.S. history. While most of the attention was focused on the jackpot and winners, less attention was paid to the negative impact this lottery and dozens of state lotteries have on families and individuals.

Social statistics demonstrate that legalized gambling hurts those who are poor and disadvantaged. A national task force on gambling found that those in the lowest income bracket lost more than three times as much money to gambling (as a percentage of income) as those at the wealthiest end of the spectrum. One New York lottery agent reports that "seventy percent of those who buy my tickets are poor, black, or Hispanic." And a National Bureau of Economic Research "shows that the poor bet a much larger share of their income."

A major study on the effect of the California lottery came to the same conclusions. The Field Institute's California poll found that 18 percent of the state's adults bought 71 percent of the tickets. These heavy lottery players (who bought more than twenty tickets in the contest's first forty-five days) are "more likely than others to be black, poorer and less educated than the average Californian."

Major headlines proclaim the lottery a success but they fail to calculate the costs measured in the shattered lives of individuals and their families. Psychologist Julian Taber warns, "No one knows the social costs of gambling or how many players will become addicted . . . the states are experimenting with the minds of the people on a massive scale." Families are torn apart by strife, divorce, and bankruptcy. Money that should go for food, clothing, or shelter is bet in the hopes of winning the largest jackpot in history. In the end, it's a bad bet.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.