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Raping Poor People For Fun And Profit

By Greg L | 2 March 2013 | Virginia Politics | 8 Comments

If I had to pick one Virginia agency to fail, it would be the Virginia Lottery.  Thus the news that the lottery has retired the phenomenally creative and effective “Lady Luck” campaign in favor of some insipid “Game Guy” schtick doesn’t bother me much at all.  This lottery scheme has got to be the cruelest way government can abuse the most unfortunate among our citizenry ever devised.

The intent here of creating an actual, honest-to-goodness revenue stream to fund education particularly in low income areas is admittedly noble.  Preying upon greed within a largely under-educated, low-income minority population to provide that stream is abusive, deplorable and utterly self-defeating.  There’s not much moral distinction between government run lotteries and having government opening stores selling crack cocaine in low income neighborhoods.

Even the intent here has been corrupted.  Not a single dollar in extra funding for education is raised through Virginia’s lottery program.  Every dollar the lottery raises reduces the education funding from the General Fund for education by a dollar, and instead that dollar pays for General Fund expenses instead.  Overwhelmingly, the largest and growing proportion of non-educational General Fund expenses are for the Commonwealth’s participation in the fraud and abuse-ridden federal Medicaid program, which provides care for low and no-income Virginia residents.  That big PR campaign by the lottery that it pays for Virginia schools, although accurate in intent, is utterly fraudulent in practice.

And who plays the lottery?  Overwhelmingly it is the poor who play, and the poorer they are, the greater percentage of income they tend to spend on lottery tickets.  Preying on their financial incompetence and misplaced hope, government tempts these people with glitzy and expensive ad campaigns that primarily run in low income demographic areas and in retail outlets where the poor are more frequently shopping.  If they’re relatively fortunate, they won’t win a lot of money, if any.  If they’re really “lucky” they’ll win a huge pot of money and join that narrow slice of Americans most likely to declare bankruptcy and become homeless within five years.

In effect the Virginia Lottery steals money from the poor, processes it through an expensive government bureaucracy, and then uses a small portion of the proceeds to subsidize their healthcare. 

There are winners in the lottery, though, and those winners make sure this program continues.  The contractors that support the lottery, including advertisers, retailers, creative agencies, and media outlets make big bucks off this program.  Political contributions by companies such as lottery vendor GTECH help make sure this program continues to steal from the poor, help make the enablers rich, and politicians dissemble about how this supposedly helps the poor instead of financially raping them by exploiting their flaws and weaknesses.  The roughly half of large lottery winnings that gets assessed in federal income taxes makes the federal government a huge winner in this scheme as well, and possibly the biggest winner of all.

The people who willingly participate in their own financial demise by playing this idiotic game, overwhelmingly among the neediest of Virginians, are losers.  They can least afford to be preyed on this way and they’re actually targeted as victims by their own government.

The Lottery’s new campaign slogan about how Virginians like to play games is probably the most accurate part of this whole mess.  Evidently, we do.  We like to pat ourselves on the back that we have a program that helps people, often of modest means, win big bucks and at the same time provide additional non-tax funding for education.  In reality we exploit the financial incompetence of low income people with a devilish scheme that hits the poorest of the poor the hardest, pads the pockets of the rich and powerful, is diverted from the public good it is supposed to finance and is used to bail out the one government program operating in Virginia that has such a high incidence of fraud and abuse that a division of the Attorney General’s office had to be created.

If truth in advertising were applied to our own government, the Virginia Lottery would have a slogan along the lines of “Our New Hot Game: Rape The Poor.”

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  1. Dave in PWC said on 3 Mar 2013 at 3:01 pm:
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    GTECH is an American company which used to be the third largest employer in Rhode Island behind Hasbro and the Federal Gov’t. My old company used to provide software products to them in the ’90’s. I made some good money trading their stock during the tech explosion in my IRA until the bubble burst. When the bubble burst a lot of the manufacturing and software jobs went overseas like a lot of other countries.

  2. Dave in PWC said on 3 Mar 2013 at 3:02 pm:
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    oops, should say “like a lot of companies”

  3. Robert L. Duecaster said on 4 Mar 2013 at 5:59 pm:
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    Lotteries have existed in many Central and South American countries for decades. I was first exposed to it in Panama on an Army tour there as a 2LT in the early seventies. There, just like here, the vast majority of purchasers of “boletas” were the poorest, lowest classes. I observed the same phenomenon in other Latin American countries where the governments’ objective was to exploit the populace, instead of providing for its common defense and enhancing its economic status. These United States have devolved to that same level of Banana Republicanism.

  4. anon said on 5 Mar 2013 at 6:03 am:
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    When Democrats call for the end of lotteries, I might start believing that they really care for the poor and working class.

  5. Scout said on 6 Mar 2013 at 10:18 am:
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    I once saw a comment from Mr. James Young in which he referred to lotteries as a “tax on stupidity.” If the phrase is original with Mr. Young, I give him full marks. Even if he was repeating it from somewhere else, the description is apt and I am obliged to him for repeating it.

  6. Cynic said on 6 Mar 2013 at 12:20 pm:
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    Lotteries - Scout, so you do not approve of voluntary taxation!

    The rich have their right to donate to their causes. And, for the most part, they do so without any subsidies other than tax write-offs or credits. Why do you want to deny the less than rich, the right to support the Government programs which these lotteries fund? Look at all the good stuff these lotteries fund - like Sports Stadiums and other projects in narrow, niches markets or fields of interest. Do not the less than rich deserve the right to participate - by the use of lotteries - in their chosen cause? And, by doing so, they - the less than rich - keep the overall, general level of taxation lower than it might otherwise be.

  7. Scout said on 6 Mar 2013 at 8:14 pm:
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    My comment referred to something James Young said. It refers to the astronomical odds against positive returns. I thought the remark colorful and apt.

    I have no problem with anyone at any income level giving whatever they want to whomever they think deserving.

    Having said that, I do not support programs that tend to take money from the most financially stressed sectors of the citizenry on the grounds that it may lower the tax bill of citizens who are better off. I would prefer to see reforms of the overt tax system to deal with those issues.

  8. Anonymous said on 12 Mar 2013 at 9:00 pm:
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    Do not these people buy and or play the lottery on their own accord? Prior to the income tax the Federal Goverment received most all of its revenues from the liquer tax. Alcohalism was rampant in low income america then with kids getting liquered up. Same scheem different day! I am glade that you became a progressive greg! They do print the odds of winning on the tickets and the info is posted. At what time does personal responsability come into play? If it wasnt for social security, Atlantic City would not exist. Your analysis is the ethos of the great divide in our society; goverment oversite or cavet emporem.

    Thank god we didnt privatize liquer sales in Virginia! Our slums and ghettos would be filled with liquer stores as it is in DC. Goverment regulation can be a good thing at times.

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