Lottery is predatory to the poor ?

Lottery is predatory to the poor ?
August 30 17:02 2016 Print This Article

Lowcountry Watchdog

The key issue in the 1998 South Carolina Governor’s race was whether to implement a state lottery. Republican incumbent David Beasley was against the lottery, and Democrat challenger Jim Hodges made the lottery the centerpiece of his campaign, saying in commercials that it was the key to improving education in South Carolina. Hodges won the election.

Many voters thought that most of the lottery funds would go to improve K-12 education. In fact, 78% of the lottery ticket proceeds go to college scholarships, most of which goes to students from middle and upper-income families.

South Carolina is among the 43 states (and the District of Columbia) which have lotteries. There is vast research showing that the poor are most likely to purchase lottery tickets while being the least likely to qualify for the college scholarships. The bottom 20% of income earners have the highest rate of lottery ticket-buyers (61%) and are most likely to buy tickets more than once per week.

In 2014, South Carolina ranked 11th in lottery ticket sales, ahead of more populous states California, Texas and Ohio. At the same time, our state ranked 43rd in median household income. Rev. Joseph Darby, vice president of the Charleston NAACP, calls the lottery immoral. I agree 100%.

Another fact about the lottery scholarship program is that ticket sales don’t cover the costs. The state general fund has subsidized the scholarship fund every year since in began in 2003. During the 14 years the scholarship fund has been in existence, taxpayers have paid more than 35% of the costs. That story was broken by Post and Courier reporter Dianne Knich. (

During the South Carolina lottery’s 14-year run, tuition at our state universities has more than doubled. That has caused students who don’t qualify for the merit-based lottery scholarships to take on a mountain of debt.

I support keeping the lottery in place until the current scholarship recipients have completed their higher education. No new scholarships should be granted beyond this year’s high school junior and senior classes. After that, the lottery should be shut down. Too many of our poor citizens think the lottery is their only way attain wealth. We need to improve our K-12 schools so they have a real opportunity to realize the American Dream.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Lowcountry Source (LoSo).