Posted on November 16, 2022

Critics Say the Lottery System Is Preying on Poor Communities

Nikolas Lanum, Fox News, November 10, 2022

As lottery players across the nation accept that they didn’t win the historic $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot this week, experts are pointing to the flaws of a lottery system they say unfairly targets poor Black and brown communities.

Lottery officials say the lone winning ticket holder of the largest lottery prize ever was sold in Altadena, California. The winner matched all six numbers – the odds of which were 1 in 292.2 million.

But despite the extremely low chances of anyone winning, state lotteries continue to market and sell tickets to low income communities at higher rates leading those Americans to believe it’s a quick way to build wealth, researchers say. These communities are disproportionately made up of Black and brown people. Critics say the consequence is that marginalized people will be driven into deeper debt by a system that is transferring wealth out of their communities.


Les Bernal, national director for Stop Predatory Gambling, called it a form of “systemic racism” and “consumer financial fraud.”

Bernal said poor people are being scammed into believing they will someday gain wealth from a winning lottery ticket.


A study by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism found that stores selling lottery tickets are disproportionately located in poor communities of every state. In most cases, the money these residents spend on lottery tickets does not come back to their communities but rather to colleges and wealthier school districts, the study found.


The Howard Center pointed to a 1999 report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission that found that Black and low-income people as well as high school dropouts were the most frequent lottery players.


Jonathan Cohen, author of “For a Dollar and a Dream: State Lotteries in Modern America,” said the lottery represents a “mechanism of the American dream” for many people. Cohen said when the economy and unemployment rates are suffering, many lottery players see the game as a chance to get ahead.

“And for folks who, especially Black and brown Americans, maybe face discrimination in the traditional economy, well, the lottery doesn’t discriminate, anyone has just as terrible odds of winning,” Cohen said.