Florida Joins Powerball Lottery

January 6, 2009

A humorous article from today’s St. Petersburg Times discusses Florida’s entry into Powerball. Florida is the last state, among those that have lotteries, to join a multistate game such as Powerball or Mega Millions. Like legislators in other states, Florida policymakers are not content with the huge amount of revenue the lottery is bringing in already.

An excerpt from the article:

Florida is expanding its state-run gambling racket. This week we joined the multistate Powerball lottery, with the first drawing to be held Wednesday.

When historians look back at this period, they will be struck by how the institutions of American government increasingly turned to gambling instead of taxation to finance the democracy.

That’s one reason state-run lotteries are inherently corrupting and weakening.

A second reason is that they prey on suckers.

We agree with the general sentiment here, but we’d like to point out that the lottery is itself a tax—a poorly designed, implicit tax that should be made explicit or, better yet, done away with—so the “gambling instead of taxation” comparison is not valid. Indeed, other forms of gambling bring in large sums of tax revenue as well, whether through explicit gambling taxes on casinos or implicit taxes on state-run slot machines, which are run as part of the lottery in some states.

The article ends with some amusing suggestions of ways to dispose of a dollar that don’t involve playing the lottery. For example:

Roll up your $1, set it on fire and use it to light your barbecue or a cigar. [The author notes that destroying U.S. currency is illegal.]

Click here for more on state-run lotteries.


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