The Official Lottery Benefits Rich Communities at the Cost of Low-Income Communities

Lottery is a popular form of gambling that involves matching numbers or symbols in order to win a prize. Some lotteries have a preprinted set of numbers or symbols on the tickets, while others allow bettors to choose their own. In the United States, state-run lotteries raise money for a variety of purposes, including education and public safety. However, critics argue that lottery revenues are often spent in ways that benefit wealthy communities at the expense of low-income ones.

The lottery draws winning numbers or symbols from a pool of eligible tickets. A percentage of the total pool is usually reserved for expenses and profits, while the remaining amount is available to winners. Typically, the ticket pools are thoroughly mixed by shaking or tossing them before drawing the winning numbers or symbols. A computer may also be used to select the winners.

Large jackpots, like those of Powerball, drive lottery sales and create publicity for the games. But the size of these prizes disproportionately benefits rich schools and students far from those in poor neighborhoods where lottery retailers are concentrated, according to a study by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism.

While one in eight Americans buy a lottery ticket each week, the top players are disproportionately lower-income, less educated, nonwhite and male. These groups are collateral damage in a lottery system that was marketed to raise money for what legislators believe are good causes: local schools and public safety, the Howard Center found.