Lottery cheatingpoorest countiessuch as Bladen

Since the North Carolina Education Lottery was established in 2005 and the first tickets sold on March 30, 2006, millions of dollars been provided to Bladen County Schools for a variety of uses, which are limited to teacher salaries, school construction, need-based financial aid, and pre-K for at-risk 4-year-olds.

We are being shortchanged.

The reality is, the state lottery is and always has been a bad deal for poor counties such as Robeson, where people who can afford it the least believe they are $2 and a bit of luck away from buying a big home and luxury car for life on Easy Street — and a condo at Ocean Isle.

Lottery tickets are sold at a staggering pace in Bladen County, and the presumption has to be that almost all of those who purchased tickets spent more than they won.

That is just how the lottery works, taking money disproportionately from the poor, an abomination that is barely tempered by the fact that no one is forced to purchase tickets. That is millions of dollars that could be better spent on life’s necessities, such as food, clothing, housing and life-enhancing endeavors.

While lottery advocates say the games offer entertainment, fund education and promote commerce, they dodge the sticky issue of who is most likely to buy lottery tickets. Moreover, exactly what is a state that has been so nimble in trying to keep video gaming illegal doing in the the gaming business?

The hypocrisy could not be more plain.

During the nine years and eight months that the lottery has existed in North Carolina, hundreds of millions of dollars has been spent in this county on the lottery, dwarfing the return. That means residents in this county, among the poorest in the state, are subsidizing education in other, more prosperous counties. It is a badly disguised regressive tax.

We don’t want to suggest no good has come from the lottery. The money sent from Raleigh has met pressing needs. But it should be the job of our legislators to identify educational needs and then find the dollars to fund them, and relying on a game of chance to do so is, well, chancy.

Retailers have benefited as well through commissions they are paid, money that likely would have left North Carolina for nearby South Carolina, whose lottery predates ours. But is it not true that dollars spent on the lottery would have been spent elsewhere, perhaps on those necessities we suggested, benefiting other retailers?

And there have been some individual winners, a few who have taken out of the lottery more than they have put in. But with the lottery, the losers always outnumber the winners.

We aren’t naive, and understand that the North Carolina Education Lottery isn’t going anywhere. It is popular with players, and relieves legislators to some degree of their duty to fully fund education. But it’s formula should be tweaked to give more consideration to poor counties such as ours.

Until that happens, it is worthy of the criticism we just heaped in it.



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