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The lottery ticket for the biggest Powerball jackpot ever was recently sold in California, and in response CNN published a report on the lottery’s critics, one of which argued that the lottery system in general is an example of “systemic racism.”
The winner, whose race is currently unknown, had a one in 292.2 million chance of matching all six numbers. That person’s luck led them to winning an unprecedented $2.04 billion prize.
With the jackpot finally won, lottery experts are reflecting on how they believe the game is unfair for certain people. CNN reported that, according to researchers, lotteries typically target low-income communities, especially those populated by “black and brown people,” dangling the promise of instant wealth from a game that residents are statistically unlikely to win.
The lottery’s critics argued that lower-income minorities who play the lottery are more likely to be driven into debt, CNN reported.
Les Bernal, national director of Stop Predatory Gambling, accused the lottery of being a form of “consumer financial fraud” and evidence of “systemic racism,” according to CNN.
“They’re hoping to pay their rent at the end of the month or pay an outstanding medical bill or put their kids through college or they just lost their job and they’re just trying to find a way to make ends meet,” Bernal said. “And here you have what is a government program encouraging citizens to lose their money on rigged games.”
Stores that sell lottery tickets are more likely to be located in poorer areas, and the profits gained by the states from the lottery are rarely used to benefit those poorer areas, according to a study from the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism cited by CNN.
“Commercialized gambling like state lotteries, like the Powerball drawing, they represent a financial exchange that is mathematically stacked against you,” Bernal continued.
The report also cited a 1999 report by The Howard Center to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission that found that black and low-income people are more likely to play the lottery. Players are also more likely to be high school dropouts.
“Poor people are collateral damage to a cause of raising money for what the legislators feel is good purposes … public safety, local schools,” former Massachusetts inspector general Gregory W. Sullivan said in the article. “State governments become dependent on the revenue and any moral considerations get pushed out of view and out of mind.”
Other sources interviewed in the article said people are more likely to play the lottery during difficult financial times.
Cornell economics professor David Just summed it up, saying, “It’s an investment. It may not be a good investment but… to people with limited resources, this may be the only way they have to sort of dream big and think that something, something great is gonna happen, that’s just gonna change everything.”