The $50 Lottery ticket: Where is the outrage?

I've never understood the rationale behind the Lottery. If gambling isn't a bad deal for society, then why isn't it legal? And if it is bad for society, then why is the state using it as a revenue source? It looks like the cops busting up backroom card games aren't promoting law and order: They're protecting a state-run monopoly.

Even if you accept the idea that the Lottery isn't inherently exploitative of those who can least afford it, I hope you'll agree with me on this: A $50 scratch ticket is insane and extremely exploitative. But today's New York Timesreports on the rise of scratch tickets priced at $20 or higher and Texas, the state where everything is bigger, has a $50 scratch ticket -- The $130 Million Spectacular.

Of course, all lotteries urge people to "please play responsibly". But I have to wonder: How many people are in a position where it is responsible for them to buy $50 Lottery tickets, especially in this period of record foreclosures and soaring consumer debt in the face of a sub-zero savings rate.

In Texas, the median income is $52,355, according to the US Census Bureau. If the median family bought one $50 lottery ticket each week, playing the lottery would consume $2600 per year -- 5% of its annual income, before any winnings it might have.

And as if that's not bad enough, we know that most frequent Lottery players are not from median income families. A University of Texas study commissioned by the Lottery (required by law) found that players with an annual income of less than $12,000 spend 33 percent more a month than those with incomes above $100,000.

I would like to know what percentage of purchasers of $50 lottery tickets the Texas Lottery Commission believes are playing responsibly -- I'd also like to know whether they care.

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