A Problem With The Lottery - Editorial

There was an interesting story in The Boston Globe the first week of June, the gist of which was that more half the towns in the state pay more into the lottery fund than they get back in local aid from the fund. The formula for distributing lottery revenue, which is intended for communities in need, is based on population and property values. But some towns, and Cape towns are a good example, have some very pricey real estate that skews the formula.

The Globe story online included a look-up tool that gives the amount contributed per capita to the fund and the amount received. The numbers are revealing.

Falmouth contributed $148 per capita to the fund last year and received $37, Mashpee contributed $146 and received $22, Bourne contributed $163 and received $63, and Sandwich contributed $124 and received $46.

We then looked at a couple of affluent communities. The numbers are eye-opening; Newton contributed $61 and received $58. Northampton got an even better deal, having contributed $128 per capital and received $130.

The Globe’s story quoted a few residents from around the state who griped about the formula, saying it wasn’t fair that their town didn’t get more money since people there needed it more.

But what is perhaps more interesting about the Globe’s story is that there was only one mention of the connection between poverty and gambling, that the less people earn, the more they are apt to spend on lottery tickets. And that was to support the notion that poorer communities should receive more money from the lottery fund.

Maybe the better thing would be to do away with the lottery. The lottery is nothing more than a regressive tax. Poorer communities might be better off if they were to get more from the lottery fund but they would be even better off if their residents were not tempted to spend their money.

Only 20 percent of the sale price of a lottery ticket, by the way, goes into the local aid fund.

The lottery is not going to go away though. There is the old argument that, with the lottery or without it, people will find a way to gamble away their money. But the fact of the matter is that the state is now addicted to the revenue. Do away with lottery revenue and the state would have to find another tax. That will never happen.

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