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Published: Jan 13, 2016
Lotteries Like Powerball Exploit, Victimize & Prey Upon Lower Income People
by Ann Warren


Lotteries such as Powerball exploit, victimize and prey upon the less fortunate. The next Powerball drawing is at 10:59 pm ET on Wednesday, and there will likely be at least one winner for the record-shattering $1.5 billion jackpot that's up for the taking.

The last drawing on January 9 marked the 19th without a grand prize winner. You have a 1-in-292-million probability of winning. Yet, many folks who can least afford to play will spend as much as $100 for the chance of changing their lives forever.
Ergo the people who are exploited by this mismatch of expectations tend to be disproportionately low-income and less educated.

Experts cannot be entirely sure why "those who can least afford it play the most," as German sociologists asked in a 2013 paper. The pessimistic, and possibly supercilious, view is that poor and less-educated folks do not have the intellect to appraise the odds and use the money spent in a more impactful and prudent fashion.

So why do so many play? Players seem to focus their attention less on that incomprehensibly minute 1-in-292-million probability, and more on what the would do with the billion-dollar prize.

Duke University reports that American households spend an average of $162 per year on lottery tickets, however low-income households spend $289 and those earning less than $10,000 a year spend $597. Higher lottery purchases were also associated with those less educated and ethnic minorities.

The sociological theory is that lower-income people have a greater need to alleviate the burdens in their daily lives, gambling has become a socially acceptable way to do so, but only the lottery ca offer the lure of a potentially life-changing payout. The German researchers also conjectured that lotteries are perceived to be great social equalizer -- every buyer of a ticket has the same chance of success. This could make it more palatable to those in the lower socioeconomic fabric of society who see equal opportunity as a rare break.

At the end of the day, lotteries have effectively become a covert tax on the poor.

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