By Scott Tibbs, November 9, 2012
When GTECH won the contract to run the Indiana Lottery, they promised to increase profits - but it is likely that the planned expansion of the lottery will come at the expense of the poor. While lottery critics may be tilting at windmills, this does provide another opportunity to examine the lottery itself.
We know that the lottery is a tax on the poor, to the point that the lottery's relationship with the poor is predatory. Who can forget the scandal involving the Ohio Super Lotto, in which "the advertising plan for Ohio's SuperLotto game stated that lottery promotions should be timed to coincide with the receipt of Government benefits, payroll and Social Security payments?"
Will GTECH implement a similar strategy to advertise the Hoosier Lottery?
The question should be obvious: Why should government be in this business at all? Why is the government in the business of gambling? To the extent that gambling is legal in Indiana, government is not only competing with private business but government actually makes it illegal to compete directly with the Hoosier Lottery.
We know the lottery is destructive to the poor, and we know that the lottery is counterproductive in terms of government anti-poverty efforts. At the very same time we give benefits to the poor, we encourage them to spend money on a "get rich quick" fantasy that will never pan out for the vast majority of players and offers no inherent value to the players.
We have seen a great deal of discussion about the proper role of government, especially over the last four years. Now is the perfect time to re-examine whether we should have a lottery at all, and instead focus state government on the essential services government should provide.
With a 69-seat supermajority in the Indiana House, a 37-seat supermajority in the Indiana Senate, and a Republican governor, the Republicans can do pretty much whatever they want. This may be as much of a fantasy as winning a $300 million Powerball jackpot, but one of the things that should be considered is abolishing the Hoosier Lottery altogether.