By Greg Blankenship
The Institute's Collin Hitt has a piece in Springfield's alternative weekly today on the state's lottery program and the mixed messages the state is sending to the minorities and the poor:
"A 1999 study presented to the National Gambling Commission revealed that, nationally, the average player spends $313 per year on lottery. Whites spend $210, blacks $997. And people with an annual income of less than $10,000 spent $597 — “the most of any income group.” Keep in mind, almost all revenues from state lotteries were, at least initially, to be steered toward higher education. College graduates spend half as much on the lottery as do high-school dropouts.
If you think that Illinois has remained ignorant of these trends, consider its advertising slogans past and present. A billboard placed by the Illinois Lottery in a blighted Chicago neighborhood reminded residents that playing was “How to get from Washington Boulevard to Easy Street.” Another reminder to the poor of their hopeless situation then reassured them, “This could be your ticket out.” The state doesn’t merely capitalize on the fact that Illinois’ poor fail to realize that they can’t afford to play . . . it reminds them again and again that they can’t afford not to. It tells players you have to “play to win.” You have to play to lose, too.
But winning doesn’t necessarily mean “getting rich” or “getting out” for many players. They consider playing a prudent investment. A study conducted by the Opinion Research Center found that one in five respondents thought that “the most practical strategy for accumulating several hundred thousand dollars [for retirement]” was banking on the lottery. Annual lottery sales in Illinois are $134.78 per capita. That’s $182.38 per adult. Over a 40-year professional career, that same amount invested in an actual retirement-savings plan would, on average, yield more than $250,000 more than would the lottery."