Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oregon Lottery's Addict Problem

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 9:44 PM


The Oregon Lottery cleaned up its act, eliminating its NFL Sports Action pick ‘em ballot four years ago to appease the NCAA when the state was trying to land an NCAA men’s hoops regional tournament bracket, which it ultimately did. However, the Oregon Lottery, despite its problem gambling PSAs, continues to rake in a huge amount of revenue by exploiting gambling addicts, according a recent piece by The Oregonian.

Sarcastically dubbed a tax on, “people who can’t do math,” lottery games pull in a huge amount of sales – roughly $350 million, according to the Oregonian, from video slots where the odds are always stacked in favor of the house. The proceeds from the lottery help pay for books for school children and land for parks and other chronically under-funded programs in a state that has had its share of budget woes, including an impending fiscal meltdown. But a big chunk of that money comes from gambling addicts whose lives can spiral out of control as a result of the habit. The newspaper looked at three years of records and found that nearly half of the total revenue from video poker comes from 10 percent of players and that those players tend to lose big—to the tune of $500 per month—while fueling their habit.

While the Oregon Lottery likes to tout its contribution as no-cost benefit to the state and its taxpayers, the reality is that someone is picking up the check here. Meanwhile many Oregon corporations continue to skate by with $10 minimum corporate income tax, including 31 last year that had taxable income of more than $1 million, according to Oregon Center for Public Policy. It would be nice if the state could one day get its financial house in order so that Oregonians can have a honest discussion about the unseen costs of the lottery.

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