Online Gambling

Scratch-Off Tickets: The Smokable Version of Lotteries

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Although I'm against state lotteries because they're unjustified government monopolies (that, not coincidentally, offer crappy odds), I have a hard time sympathizing with their most conspicuous critics, who are motivated by a combination of paternalism and moralism. "Scratch-off tickets are to the lottery what crack is to cocaine," a Texas state legislator tells The New York Times. He and other "urban liberal Democratic politicians" have allied themselves with religious conservatives who oppose all forms of gambling. The "liberals" are worried by "evidence that blacks and Hispanics individually spend much more than whites on the lottery."

This concern reminds me of anti-smoking activists who criticize tobacco companies for "targeting vulnerable populations"—i.e., children, women, blacks, and Hispanics, who apparently are on a par when it comes to making risky decisions, and in any event less savvy than white men. The Times reports that a 2006 Texas survey found "the typical black player spent $70 a month on the lottery, compared with $47 for Hispanics and $20 for whites." Why is that more troubling than the reverse situation would be? If the issue were simply income (a question of who is better able to afford lottery tickets) or education (a question of who is better prepared to assess the costs and benefits of playing the lottery), why bring up race at all? Are blacks and Hispanics constitutionally less capable of deciding how to spend their money?

Ernest L. Passailaigue, director of the South Carolina lottery and president of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, manages to discuss the demographics of his customers without sounding racist:

Mr. Passailaigue…does not dispute that certain games appeal more to minorities and low-income people, but he said these groups were not being singled out and the trend should not worry state lottery officials.

"It's more cultural in nature," he said. "Some people think it's O.K. to go and play golf and bet on each hole."

While golfers might have more disposable income than many scratch-off bettors, Mr. Passailaigue argued the reality was, "Culturally, people have experienced different ways not only to amuse themselves but to gamble. It's been that way for a long time in this country."

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  1. I guess they need a new race for me. I only spend like $52/year on the lottery!

  2. Why, they’s jus’ like children and needs us better folk to take care of them.

  3. The Times reports that a 2006 Texas survey found “the typical black player spent $70 a month on the lottery, compared with $47 for Hispanics and $20 for whites.” Why is that more troubling than the reverse situation would be?

    I think it’s troubling to the extent that these are the populations the state is allegedly helping via the lottery. Assuming a particular lottery is supposed to raise money for that state’s public schools, you’re essentially taking money from the black community (which, on the whole, probably has the worst schools) and redistributing it evenly across all state populations. And, of course, the state takes a big chunk out of that for administrative costs, etc. I have no problem with people choosing to gamble. I have a problem with the state maintaining a monopoly over gambling and screwing up one of its legitimate duties (public education) in the process.

  4. Are blacks and Hispanics constitutionally less capable of deciding how to spend their money?

    I’d say blacks and Hispanics as a very broad generalization (but generally true) are more superstitious than other groups. This superstition and an ignorance of the true odds plus a fatalistic philosophy might encourage them to spend more on scratch-offs and swirling ping-pong balls.

  5. ed,

    Don’t be dissin’ the Santaria, it is based on the same science as Global Warming. Just ask Mr. Bailey.

  6. Guy,

    I don’t practice Santeria…

  7. Just like an indulgent father makes it more likely a naturally bratty girl will remain a brat, state interference in rational choice will make people who are prone to irrationality more prone to be irrational for longer, because they won’t see the real consequences of their actions.

  8. well, I ain’t got no crystal ball, but I did find it kind of funny that the director for the state lottery of SC alluded to black people not playing golf…in the age of Tiger Woods.

    Maybe he’s just a Fuzzy Zoeller supporter.

  9. They don’t swim, either.

  10. “Just like an indulgent father makes it more likely a naturally bratty girl will remain a brat, state interference in rational choice will make people who are prone to irrationality more prone to be irrational for longer, because they won’t see the real consequences of their actions.”

    I fail to see what is sad about this. These people are choosing to gamble and having a good time doing it. Lord forbid.

  11. Unfair lotteries that exploit the poor and people of color is what happens when Grover Norquist followers refuse to raise taxes to support necessary government functions.

  12. What would a fair lottery be?

  13. I cant speak for blacks, but this type of small stakes gambling is normal part of hispanic culture. I agree with Ed, hispanic culture tends to be more superstitious: “I think I will play my the numbers of my birthday, together with the date of my granma’s death, plus the numbers I dreamt of last night”.
    There is the idea of “el dia de mi suerte” (my lucky day) is bound to come any day now, so I better keep playing if Im going to win.

  14. “What would a fair lottery be?”

    Theres no such thing, and if it wasn’t for certain wingnuts who have a fantasy of drowning government in the bathtub we could raise taxes on the rich, instead of raising taxes on poor minorities through lotteries.

  15. I know that’s what you meant – was just having a little fun 🙂

    not sure if i’d call a lottery a tax, tho…

    how about as a first step- ax most corporate subsidies…

  16. MCW,

    Id like to see you go down to a barrio and tell those people you are taking their scratch tickets away.
    They would probably accuse YOU of being part of the rich bourgeois who will not give them a chance to get (win) a piece of the pie.

  17. I would rather send my tax loopholed fortune to herr doktor paul than play the lottery.

  18. Theres no such thing, and if it wasn’t for certain wingnuts who have a fantasy of drowning government in the bathtub we could raise taxes on the rich, instead of raising taxes on poor minorities through lotteries.

    I’m starting to become convinced that you are a well-prepared parody. Else you are completely insane.

    Either way, congrats, sir. You’ve achieved something most never will.

  19. For a fun theory: perhaps lotteries are one the truly moral ways that governments fund themselves. Of course, they constrain competitors, which is not cool, but if government provided bonanza good-times games and funded things that way, would that be so bad?

    I’m going to throw this free piece of lulz-potential: What if government ran strip clubs to raise funds?

  20. if it wasn’t for certain wingnuts who have a fantasy of drowning government in the bathtub

    What is wrong with “Andrea Yates” conservatism?

  21. rana | December 27, 2007, 4:24pm | #

    “Just like an indulgent father makes it more likely a naturally bratty girl will remain a brat, state interference in rational choice will make people who are prone to irrationality more prone to be irrational for longer, because they won’t see the real consequences of their actions.”

    I fail to see what is sad about this. These people are choosing to gamble and having a good time doing it. Lord forbid.

    rana,
    I think that this comment was meant to lambast the lottery critics, and gambling critics in general, who would offer for the state to interfere in what should be a personal matter.

    Just as the state’s interference in the housing market via recent mortgage bailouts will simply reinforce the “Uncle Sam will save me” mentality, proposing that the government “do something” about the apparent racial disparity WRT the lotto is just inviting more frivolous spending without consequences in the long run.

    I don’t feel that there is anything wrong with gambling, I just think that those who loose their money doing so should realize that it really is lost and that the gubmit shouldn’t say, “Nevermind, you are black/hispanic/whatever and couldn’t make a fully formed thought. Here’s your money back.”

  22. Ayn_Randian | December 27, 2007, 4:47pm | #

    I’m going to throw this free piece of lulz-potential: What if government ran strip clubs to raise funds?

    They’d be as competent in their job as any other government employee?

  23. What would a fair lottery be?

    One where any number combination has the same chance of winning as any other number combination.

  24. I had a million dollars but I’d spend it all?

  25. “What if government ran strip clubs to raise funds?”

    Flaccid city?

    A sudden epidemic of “innies”?

    The dancers would put articles of clothing on, miss their cues to go on stage, and crowd out the others?

  26. I’ve heard of people whose retirement plans are to win the lottery. Seriously! But when you think about it, it’s the rational approach from their perspective. The SEC won’t let you microinvest, and the odds of winning the lotto are greater than social security being around in twenty years. So why not spend that fiver on a scratcher?

  27. The Pennsylvania Lottery is imitating the tobacco companies by using a friendly animal to promote their product. Gus, the 2nd most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania, promotes the instant lottery with the message “Keep on Scratching”.

    http://www.character-shop.com/gus.html

    This website claims that instant lottery tickets increased in sales by $6 million after the introduction of Gus.

  28. I’m going to throw this free piece of lulz-potential: What if government ran strip clubs to raise funds?

    I’m sure that due to government hiring laws we’d get a much more “representative” sample of dancers with respect to age and size…

  29. What would a fair lottery be?

    One where any number combination has the same chance of winning as any other number combination.

    I don’t think it’s as much about the randomness of the draw; it’s more about the distribution of the earnings. Casinos usually earn less than 10% of the wagers (for Blackjack, which I tend to stick with, the house edge is only 0.20%), while usually 50% of money collected by state-run lotteries never makes it into the jackpot. As a result, on average you can expect winnings to match 50% of your wagers in the long run. This makes state run lotteries inherently less fair than casinos.

  30. MCW = Dan T ?

    I haven’t seen Dan T posting for a while.

  31. MCW = Dan T ?

    Assuming the bold words are to be overemphasized, I would guess that MCW=William Shatner.

  32. If the numbers were reversed they’d be talking about a “lottery gap” and how unfair it was that minorities were unable to take advantage of the opportunity offered by state lotteries that white people had.

  33. Lottery tickets show how exploitive capitalism is to people who lack certain priveleges, the same for things like fast food, menthol cigarettes, and malt liquor.

    Is it any coincidence the most damaging so-called “products” are market to people of color?

  34. Denny Crane

    Not MCW

  35. I’m going to throw this free piece of lulz-potential: What if government ran strip clubs to raise funds?

    Do you really want strippers with life-long job security?

  36. Lottery tickets show how exploitive capitalism is to people who lack certain priveleges, the same for things like fast food, menthol cigarettes, and malt liquor.

    Ha ha. You are a card…do you do parties?

    Anywho, I’m a white guy with a college degree and acceptance to a law program, and I’ll still drink a King Cobra and eat some fried chicken.

    Because that shit is good.


  37. Is it any coincidence the most damaging so-called “products” are market to people of color?

    You are leaving out crack, cheap handguns, and 26″ aftermarket wheels.

  38. Jozef’s point is absolutely correct. If you were to play roulette and they paid out as well as the state, expect a 16-1 payout on a 37-1 (or 38, depending on the state) chance of winning.

    MCW – so smoking Marlboros and not Newports takes a certain level of privelage?

  39. So black folks are winning, on average, 3 1/2 times as much as whites? This is an outrage.

  40. “MCW – so smoking Marlboros and not Newports takes a certain level of privelage?”

    Yes because non-menthol cigarettes are marketed to whites and menthol cigarettes which are proven to be stronger and more damaging are marketed to blacks.

    Its the same with alcohol. Whites are marketed Pabst Blue Ribbon, blacks are marketed Steel Reserve. The latter has twice the alcoholic content and dangerous chemicals as the former.

  41. What would a fair lottery be?

    I dunno. It’s a toss-up.

  42. “acceptance to a law program”

    HAY!!! Congrats A_R!!! That’s fantastic!!!!! woo hoo!

    M: naughty!!!

  43. Its the same with alcohol. Whites are marketed Pabst Blue Ribbon, blacks are marketed Steel Reserve. The latter has twice the alcoholic content and dangerous chemicals as the former.

    Well, obviously whites can’t handle the strong stuff, so we have to keep it out of their hands.

  44. VM – How can I prove what I wasn’t thinking, in fact that I don’t even understand your reference?

    Well, regrettably only the former.

  45. Whites are marketed PBR? I don’t remember seeing an ad for PBR in years to be honest (except for one of my fav lines from Blue Velvet delivered by Dennis Hopper: “Heineken? Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!”)

    I have to agree with the libertarians here: noone makes anyone buy the lottery, poor or not. A lot of poor people like it. So what.

  46. Mad Dog 20/20 has got some killer alcohol content and probably bad additives. I bought it all the time when young, I thought I was frugal since it had such a high alcohol/price ratio…I’m not sure you can get higher alcohol content in a conveience store (at least where I live…)

  47. M:

    curses! you out-smarted me again.

    *sulks off*

    (VM | December 27, 2007, 4:29pm | #
    What would a fair lottery be?)

  48. The fact is that blacks are addicted to lotteries and alcohol because of the capitalist schemes of white men. All they have to look forward to in life is either being an NBA player or a gangsta rapper.

  49. OK, I had some doubt as to whether MCW was some troll who was not worth replying to or what not, but it’s obvious now. Comfortable under that bridge MCW?

  50. I better keep playing if Im going to win.

    That’s the nefarious genius behind weekly lotteries: the state (in this case) first sets up a system whereby only scanned cards with the filled-in holes can play, thus establishing “lucky” number combinations amongst the gullible (random “quick-picks” come later). Week after week of losing notwithstanding, the players are nevertheless convinced that eventually these numbers will score, and they’re terrified that the one week they don’t play, their numbers will be chosen. It’s really devilish! Not that I have a problem with the concept. But I, like Jacob, don’t believe the government should be the proprietor of this con game.

  51. MNG-

    The last post was by an impersonator but I actually agree with the base of his premise.

  52. I must refer you to see a registered mental health expert in your local area!

    But do keep posting, I’m getting a good laugh!

  53. You know, MCW is an alright guy.
    His habit of bolding certain words a)takes more time than singleCrazy’s wordrunning to type out and b)makes it obvious which post to skip over. All in all, it’s a win-win situation.

  54. Anyone know if stats are available showing the racial makeup of lottery winners? I suppose that would only tell us if one group is genetically predisposed to good luck.

  55. VM, now I’m totally lost. Oh well. That’s the way the dice fall.

  56. Lottery winners are 100% human, Ben. That in itself says a lot.

  57. brotherben

    I am fairly sure the

  58. Assuming a particular lottery is supposed to raise money for that state’s public schools, you’re essentially taking money from the black community (which, on the whole, probably has the worst schools) and redistributing it evenly across all state populations.

    1. The Texas state lottery take goes to the general fund, not to schools.
    2. Under the state “Robin Hood” school finance plan property tax receipts in “rich” school districts are redistributed to “poor” districts.

    not sure if i’d call a lottery a tax, tho…

    It’s a tax on stupid.

    BTW, it’s also possible the rich might spend less on lotteries because they can go to horse tracks and fly to Vegas/Atlantic city.

    Or perhaps the lottery-funded public education isn’t heavy on game theory and statistics.

  59. I’m against state lotteries because they’re unjustified government monopolies

    Does anyone here really think we’d have more legal gambling if there weren’t state lotteries? State lotteries, crappy as they are, have considerably advanced public acceptance of gambling. I don’t think we’d have as much legal gambling as we do, let alone prospects for more, had it not been for state lotteries.

    hispanic culture tends to be more superstitious

    I think the closer correlation is with the Catholic religion.

  60. For most lottery players, it is just an affordable form of entertainment. Compared to a movie ticket, it’s a rather good deal. The lottery ticket costs less and your odds of winning with it are better.

  61. LOL, I can’t decide who wins the thread, Grover or creech. Or perhaps MCW for giving us all such great material.

  62. “Or perhaps the lottery-funded public education isn’t heavy on game theory and statistics.”

    very few educations are 🙂

  63. Its the same with alcohol. Whites are marketed Pabst Blue Ribbon, blacks are marketed Steel Reserve. The latter has twice the alcoholic content and dangerous chemicals as the former.

    I wonder who DFH 120 min or Sam Adams’ Utopia are being marketed to?

    When I am at Rich O’s enjoying a Chimay Grande Reserve Ive noticed the distinct lack of presence of the brothas. Well except for one.

  64. I can’t decide who wins the thread

    Let’s flip a coin.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  65. Fair lottery = everyone wins. !! Everyone gets a ribbon and a kiss but no cash. Kinda like the Special Olympics.

  66. Kinda like the Special Olympics.

    Just thought it was appropriate for some reason.

  67. Jozef | December 27, 2007, 5:01pm | #

    What would a fair lottery be?

    One where any number combination has the same chance of winning as any other number combination.

    I don’t think it’s as much about the randomness of the draw; it’s more about the distribution of the earnings. Casinos usually earn less than 10% of the wagers (for Blackjack, which I tend to stick with, the house edge is only 0.20%), while usually 50% of money collected by state-run lotteries never makes it into the jackpot. As a result, on average you can expect winnings to match 50% of your wagers in the long run. This makes state run lotteries inherently less fair than casinos.

    I was speaking to statistical fairness, not the touchy-feelie humanities department fairness that is all the rage at the Student Union.

  68. Technically, a “fair” lottery would be one in which the price of the ticket is equal to the probability of winning times the jackpot dollar amount. So if your chance of winning is 1/40,000,000 and the jackpot is $10,000,000 then the ticket should cost $.25.

    My statistician friends say that the lottery is equivalent to a tax on mathematical illiteracy.

  69. Though I do not gamble much, and never play the lottery, I have no problem with it whatsoever, EXCEPT for the fact that they sell the tickets in delis and bodegas–rendering them an extremely annoying place to try to buy something on the major lottery days, which here in NY is like four days a week now. It’s like standing in the express lane and the five people in front of you have full carts.

  70. Ey, Mon, ez soon ez Ai ween, Ai geeve you a bodega!

  71. Rhywun: I especially enjoy the lottery selling establishments that let the guy in front of you scratch his tickets and then spend the winning ones on more tickets, which he is then allowed to scratch. I find myself calculating the half-life of my chances of winning if I don’t actually buy a ticket.

  72. Georgia uses the proceeds from poor gamblers to help middle class kids go to college. That’s not only NOT a proper government function, its pretty damn evil in my book. As far as gambling proclivities, I love my TVG just as much as minorities love scratch off tickets. But digital cable isn’t cheap.

  73. My statistician friends say that the lottery is equivalent to a tax on mathematical illiteracy.

    I just embraced one quip from a stats guy I knew: “Purchasing one ticket increases your odds of winning immensly, a second ticket is a waste of money.”

    BTW, I am against government lotteries, but I am following the same idea RP mentions about Social Security.

  74. Pet Peeve Alert! Here in Michigan, and other states, one selling point for the lottery is that the money goes to [all bow] EDUCATION. That is a bald faced lie. Money is fungible. The legislators start the budget process with “X amount from the lottery goes to schools, how much more do we have to allocate?” IOW, the lottery just alters the budget allocation process and provides nothing extra to education. The people who can’t see through this obvious falsehood are likely the same folks who spend their money on the state fleecing lottery.

    Everytime somebody explains that the lottery goes to education I surmise, “Either you think I’m stupid, or you are.”

  75. I will buy one lottery ticket, but only on draws where the payout on the big prize equals the odds multiplied by the cost of the ticket. (I know this still doesn’t give me an even money bet – it just limits the number of times I purchase tickets.)

    I consider it entertainment. I get a week’s worth of daydreams for my $2.

    “If I win, I’ll go into the boss’ office and…”

  76. Don’t you mean, “A cheap, smokable version of lotteries?”

  77. MCW = Dan T ?

    I haven’t seen Dan T posting for a while.

    That is my theory, also, Aresen.

    I also noticed Dan T started posting right around the time Jersey McJones stopped posting.

  78. I also noticed Dan T started posting right around the time Jersey McJones stopped posting.

    I think that may just be a coincidence. Jersey regularly used to melt down and call everyone who disagreed with his assertions an idiot. Dan T simply trolls.

    More on topic, in New York, the catch phrase used in every lottery commercial is “Hey, you never know.” If a privately owned casino advertised using that phrase, they would most certainly be prosecuted for misleading advertising.

    …and the lottery is basically an idiot tax.

  79. I sure felt like an idiot the two times in my life I played the lottery. The last time was for a whopping 40 million dollars oh, 18 years ago. Shockingly, I didn’t win.

    However, New York has this amazingly addictive keno game in bars that I played a few zillion times about ten years ago in Buffalo, but I’ve never seen it in NYC.

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