The Impact of the Lottery on Low-Income Communities


The history of the lottery dates back to ancient times, when many ancient documents describe drawings of lots to determine rights. These practices became common in Europe during the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but they were not tied to the United States until 1612, when King James I of England instituted a lottery to fund the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. Since then, lottery funding has been used by both public and private organizations to support public works projects, towns, and wars.

Increasing support for state-sponsored lotteries

The benefits of running a state-sponsored lottery are well-known to supporters of gambling, especially to those who have an occasional urge to gamble. Lotteries generate considerable revenue for states, and 60 percent of adult players report that they do so on a regular basis. However, despite these benefits, critics of lotteries contend that they promote addictive gambling, undermine transparency, and increase regressivity. In addition, they are often characterized as a conflict between the public welfare goals of a state and revenue goals.

Growing numbers of states have lotteries

Across the United States, state lotteries have nearly doubled in size in the past two decades. These lotteries drive multibillion-dollar wealth transfers from low-income communities to multinational corporations. But the lottery’s promises don’t hold up under scrutiny. In one study, the Howard Center analyzed cellphone location data to discover that lottery retailers are concentrated in neighborhoods with lower household and median incomes. While some people may be tempted to buy lottery tickets based on their luck, the vast majority of the people who purchase lottery tickets are local.

Per capita spending on lotteries in various states

The U.S. Census Bureau reports data on state lottery spending per capita every two years. The data comes from an annual estimate of the resident population. The numbers reflect the latest estimates of population growth. According to the data, lottery spending per capita is around $2,238 in the state of California, $4,038 in Maryland, and $3,810 in North Dakota. The figures are based on 2010 Census population estimates.

Impact of lotteries on low-income communities

One way to understand the impact of lottery games on low-income communities is to look at the distribution of proceeds. Typically, the lottery involves voluntary contributions that are distributed in random ways. These funds are then used for government programs. However, some communities do not benefit as much as they would like. In these cases, the lottery is more of a snare for low-income communities. The lottery, therefore, may have negative impacts on these communities.

Marketing to poor people

If you’re considering marketing your lottery, consider targeting the poor. While it is true that lottery sales aren’t targeted toward the poor, many people who live in low-income neighborhoods are likely to pass by lottery outlets. The result? An enormously profitable business for states and the lottery industry. However, marketing the lottery to the poor isn’t as easy as it seems. Here are some ways to market to the poor.