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It’s Time to Get Rid of The Lottery

Writer Leah Muncy recalls one of her earliest memories is of her mother buying a lottery ticket at the supermarket. “When I was young, my mother was always talking about the ‘lotto.’ Around the kitchen table, she’d tell us what she’d do with the millions: buy a large farm with chickens, fly us to Mexico, solar-panel the roof.”

The odds of winning the multi-state Powerball jackpot are one-in-292-million. You have a greater chance of dying from a falling coconut, which is one in 250 million. Despite this, Americans spent $71.8 billion on lottery tickets in 2017. The bulk of this revenue was generated by the poorest Americans.

According to a study conducted by Cornell University, the lottery is most aggressively advertised in impoverished communities, particularly minority and rural white neighborhoods. This exploitation leads to the “desperation hypothesis”: those in the direst of financial circumstances turn to the lottery as “a hail-Mary strategy.” It is a source of hope for those in despair. A 2019 survey found that 75% of lottery players believe that they will win.

The study also found that people who made less than $30,000 a year were more likely to play the lottery for financial stability. One in three Americans with incomes below $25,000 believe that winning the lottery “represents the most practical way for them to accumulate several hundred thousand dollars.” This, in turn, only makes America’s poorest even poorer.

Muncy continues, “My mother estimates she’s spent $3,000 on lottery tickets in her lifetime. ‘You can’t win if you don’t play,’ she says. But I tell her, that you can’t win if you do play.” The lottery did not ever and will not ever provide her with a ranch, or solar panels, or vacations. This beacon of false hope can be seen at the top of every California lottery ticket, a sun shining above the chosen numbers. It is golden, radiant, looming. And it is blinding.


Leah Muncy, “It’s time to get rid of the lottery,” The Outline.com (7-31-19)

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