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Monday, January 16, 2006

Who buys lottery tickets?

Try doing a Google search on the pair of phrases “lottery tickets” “tax on the poor”; you’ll find surprisingly few hits. Change poor to stupid and you’ll collect a few more hits, but still only 507 (at this moment). I’ve heard both descriptions from many people, and even seen them on bumper stickers.

Perhaps uneducated would be the most accurate word. Let’s try that...

Only 12 hits now! That’s even more surprising.

On New Year’s Day, the MetroWest Daily News published a table of various data for the towns in their area, including the average lottery-ticket purchases per resident for each town. The lede to the accompanying article contained the following conclusion:
People in some of the poorest towns in MetroWest and the Milford region are among the biggest spenders when it comes to playing the Massachusetts State Lottery, a Daily News examination of lottery statistics found.
Residents of Blackstone and Bellingham, two of the poorest towns in this otherwise mostly affluent area, spent the most money on lottery tickets and could least afford to do so. Weston, the richest, spent the least. No one is surprised by this.

The lottery is supposed to be a good thing, since it helps fund education, and since its “taxes” are voluntary. But whom are we taxing?

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