The Dark Side of the Official Lottery

Lotteries are games of chance in which numbers are drawn to win a prize. They are often used by governments to raise money, and they have been around for centuries. Although the abuses of lottery corruption and bribery strengthened arguments against it, government-sponsored lotteries still remain popular and help finance such projects as the British Museum, bridge repairs, supplying a battery of guns for the defense of Philadelphia, rebuilding Faneuil Hall in Boston, and numerous American colleges such as Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, Union, and King’s College (now Columbia). Privately organized lotteries are also common.

New York state started the official lottery in 1967, promising to use the proceeds for education. Since then, it has raised billions of dollars for school aid. It’s not surprising that the lottery is so popular, as it’s an enticing opportunity to become rich quickly.

The problem is that there is a dark side to the lottery that many people don’t see. Lotteries have a way of disproportionately hurting poor and minority communities. They dangle the promise of instant riches in an age when social mobility is low and inequality is rampant.

In a study conducted by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, researchers found that lottery retailers are disproportionately located in low-income communities. The study also discovered that state lottery retailers “often sell tickets in locations that are characterized by racial or economic disadvantages.” Basically, poor communities are being charged to fund middle- and upper-class college students and wealthy school districts far away from them.