Largest Jackpot: Part Two

May 17, 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.

Yesterday I pointed out 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.

Legalized gambling also doesn't make sense simply because it feeds a compulsive gambing addiction in so many people. Gamblers Anonymous estimate that there are at least 12 million compulsive gamblers. So does it make sense to have the state promoting gambling? State sponsorship of gambling makes it harder, not easier, for the compulsive gambler to reform. Since about 96 percent of those gamblers began gambling before the age of fourteen, we should be especially concerned about the message such a policy sends to young people.

The economic costs that gamblers themselves incur are significant. The average compulsive gambler has debts exceeding $80,000. And this figure pales in comparison with other social costs that surface because of family neglect, embezzlement, theft, and involvement in organized crime. Compulsive gamblers affect the lives of family, friends, and business associates. Some of the consequences of gambling are marital disharmony, divorce, child abuse, substance abuse, and suicide attempts.

All the press reports of a $350 million jackpot ignore the enormous social costs of not just this lottery but dozens of state lotteries around the country. Gambling is bad social policy. It hurts the poor and those struggling with a compulsive gambling addiction.

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