Shut Down the Lottery


I want state government out of the gambling business.

The reason the lottery was established was to raise money for schools by some means other than (shudder) taxes. So instead of generating revenue by simply raising the Individual Income Tax or the sales tax by a few percentage points, we establish an entire state bureaucracy and a new statewide industry (including 11,000 lottery retailers), and then we try to encourage foolish and/or stupid people to squander their money on a game they are going to lose.

In 2007, ticket sales were $2.36 billion and prizes totaled $1.33 billion. So the average lottery player got back $.56 for every $1.00 he spent. I can offer lottery players better odds than that. I'll give them $.75 for their $1.00. But it probably wouldn't be as much fun. (Figures are from the Lottery's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.)

In fiscal year 2007, the Lottery generated $748.9 million for the School Aid Fund and $10.8 million for the General Fund (from charitable gaming activities). Another $1 million is set aside for Department of Community Health's gambling addiction programs.

Last year, the Lottery spent $17.5 million on advertising - encouraging citizens to play. And according to a 6/9/08 article in the Lansing State Journal:

Each year, a little more than 2000 people are referred for treatment or to Gamblers Anonymous meetings after calling in to the Michigan Department of Community Health Problem Gambling Helpline. More than 300 each year ask to have themselves put on the Disassociated Persons List, which bans them from Detroit's three casinos.

The cost of operating the Lottery in 2006 was $281 million: $235.7 million for commissions and game related expenses and $45.3 million for other operating expenses. The $760.1 million generated by the Lottery at a cost of $281 million could have been generated at no cost by increasing the Personal Income Tax.           

I also have a personal reason for doing away with  the lottery. I don't like waiting in line at the checkout counter while someone is buying lottery tickets.  

I had a letter to the editor published March 13, 1995 on this subject.

The Lottery Building on S. Washington Ave. in Lansing