Focus on the Family

Cause for Concern (Lotteries)

Should state governments be exploiting their own citizens through promoting lottery gambling?

by Focus on the Family Issue Analysts

Charles T. Clotfelter and Phillip J. Cook, Duke University professors and lottery experts, have done extensive research on lotteries. Their book, Selling Hope: State Lotteries in America1, provides a thorough exploration of the costs and benefits of state-run gambling operations –better known as lotteries.

On April 19, 2000, Clotfelter testified before the North Carolina House Select Committee and reiterated his concerns about state-owned gambling. Here are a few points he made in his testimony:2

According to a Tax Foundation researcher, Alicia Hansen, "The lottery is more than a controversial way to add a little money to state coffers; it is a tax and should be evaluated as such. When we subject it to the tests of good tax policy, it fails."

Hansen goes on to say, "Lottery proponents argue that a tax is a mandatory or compulsory payment, and playing the lottery is voluntary, so lottery revenue cannot be a tax. But they're confusing the purchase of a product with the payment of the tax on the product."3

North Carolina's Republican Party Platform states the situation succinctly (Article V, 2008): "The state lottery monopoly turns government into a bookie, operates only by false advertising, capitalizes on broken dreams and personal irresponsibility, and places the burden of taxation most heavily on those who are least able to afford it."4

Should state governments be exploiting their own citizens through promoting lottery gambling?


1First Harvard University Press, 1991
42008 NC Republican Platform.