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In our opinion: Mega Millions aside, lotteries are bad public policy

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  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 1:18 a.m.

    Well OK, lotteries are a regressive tax in essence. Do you care about regressive sales taxes or regressive property taxes or regressive FICA taxes? No? So why to do get excited by it in the case of lotteries? Answer: you only care about regressivity here because you believe lotteries are per se immoral.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 2:39 a.m.

    One problem with lotteries is they become a substitute for savings and investing.

  • River Dog Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 6:23 a.m.

    Well, guess we don't have to worry about loltteries here in Utah. If those with little funds didn't spend money on lottery tickets, there would be something else to spend it on of equal value. I know I'll never when the lottery when I do get a chance to play it, but it feels good to dream a little. If you spend over five dollars a month on lotteries, you better check in to a rehab clinic.

  • high school fan Huntington, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 6:27 a.m.

    This is grossly unfair to the less fortunate in this country and we should demand that the President and the democrats in congress remedy this situation. Those with all the money are not paying their fair share and this is placing a burden on those who can least afford it.
    We should demand free lottery tickets for all and there should also be better odds of winning, after all it is guaranteed by the constitution as a pursuit of happiness. Once again the rich are using loopholes to avoid doing the right thing.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 6:36 a.m.

    A major problem with lotteries, is they divert peoples attention away from savings and investment.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 6:42 a.m.

    Perhaps here is a method to migate the damage lotteries cause and help ensure that people who ought not buy lottery tickets aren't.

    Require that people pass a back ground check to be able to win. A winning ticket would only be valid if the person is not struggling with debt. Is not on public assistance or assistance of friends or relatives. Their children are not suffering because of the parents financial condition. Once these concerns are certified as being taken care of, then people can get a time limited permit that would allow them to win the lottery.

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 6:52 a.m.

    They may be bad public policy but they are good tax revenue for states. The only problem I see with the lottery is that only one or two people win a huge jackpot, like just happened. I wish that maybe after the amount reaches a certain number, say 100 million, that the odds could be changed so that maybe 10 different winners become possible. Instead of two people winning half a billion, wouldn't it be better if 50 people could have split that pot? If that happened, you would probably get 10 times the amount of people buying tickets, because the odds would not be so impossible. In any case I see the lottery as a voluntary contribution to a state tax fund, which has a very slim chance of a huge rebate. I don't think the lottery is the evil that many try to claim it is. Especially if you want to help out your states school system or other financial needs.

  • airnaut Everett, 00
    Dec. 19, 2013 7:03 a.m.

    I disagree.

    Because of the gravitation of the wealth going to the 1%,
    a person has a better chance of winning a lottery than he/she has of working hard and making it.

    Besides -- I trusted my leaders and invested everything I had into my education and my house.
    Turns out -- that was the stupidest thing I could have ever done!

    My dying hope is that there is a just God,
    who will see to it that the Gadianton's on WallStreet and the politicians who cator to them get their just rewards!

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Dec. 19, 2013 7:09 a.m.

    The author is correct. Too many lottery tickets are purchased with money that should have gone to pay rent, groceries or medicines. Lotteries create no new wealth, no new jobs and only exacerbates poverty and increases food stamp and other welfare recipients at tax payer expense. Amazingly lotteries are run by the government but it harms people, families and nations!

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 7:38 a.m.

    Lotteries are a microcosm of our economic system, as seen from the underclass.

    I work with a lot of immigrants, who see the various slimey - but entirely legal - entities that prey on the poor, such as payday lenders, unforgiving landlords who use the letter of the law and the fine print in agreements to extract fines and punishments, and their conclusion is that "you make money whatever way you can, and the law is meant to protect people who are rich".

    Immigrants hear people above them complaining about excessive CEO pay, and they conclude the whole system is a sham, and the acquisition of money - by any means - is legitimate. That's the game. Fast talking salesmen and lawyers are the tools of the wealthy to just keep building up bigger and bigger piles of cash.

    So, lotteries become a kind of religious hope, a faith that they, too, can make it big and drive nice cars and not have a care in the world.

    I agree with the D-News that lotteries are a bad idea, but we should learn a lesson or two about how they've impacted behavior and thinking. It's not pretty.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Dec. 19, 2013 8:00 a.m.

    "Amazingly lotteries are run by the government but it harms people, families and nations!"

    Ah, the evil government. But, this is state government. Isn't that where the decision making should be made?

    Utah has every right to refuse to institute a lottery. It is a state choice.

    So, is Sheldon Adelson "harming people, families and nations!"?

  • one vote Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 8:00 a.m.

    Nanny State.

  • Open Minded Mormon Everett, 00
    Dec. 19, 2013 8:27 a.m.

    Oh for crying out loud!

    A lottery is a TAX,
    and a "volunteer", non-compulsive tax at that.

    You would think conservatives would be ALL over this,
    but to them it is a "sin".

    Tell you,
    why don't we just call it for what it is, a "sin tax".

    BTW -- 1 other thing...

    This is a STATE issue.
    Utah doesn't even have a lottery.

    So, why do Utahans in Utah keep insist on telling other people, in other states what to do?

  • McMurphy St George, Utah
    Dec. 19, 2013 8:47 a.m.

    Mountainman is correct as far as he goes. The money spent could also go to the Govt as an involuntary tax or a church as a voluntary tax

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 8:52 a.m.

    Open Minded Mormon

    One of those rare times you and I agree.

    The lottery is exactly that. A tax. A voluntary tax that people can or cannot pay. If someone is stupid enough to spend food or rent money on the lottery, they will be that stupid in spending it on other things. Like going to Wendover or Vegas. We can't nanny state everyone from their own bad judgements. Here in Utah, they lose millions of dollars to the Idaho lottery. I'm sure the government and people of Idaho love it.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Dec. 19, 2013 9:02 a.m.

    Anyone who wants something for nothing (or for the price of a lottery ticket) is a blight on society. Every successful person knows that prosperity comes from taking risk or working hard, sometimes both. Reward follows effort. "Blessings" without "responsibilities" only guarantees failure.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 9:06 a.m.

    IMO lotteries are a tax. A tax on the most desperate people in society.

    Who doesn't know poor people who in desperation to get out of their situation put money that should have been used for food or rent into the lottery in hopes of getting out of their desperate situation?

    But all we get on TV are the happy stories.

    They never tell the story of the people who used their family's last dollar or even borrowed money and spent it on the lottery in hopes of winning... and didn't win.

    There are thousands of sad lottery stories for every winning story. But I guarantee you the only story we will hear is the happy one.

    ---

    I don't think we should have a lottery in Utah, because I see it as a tax on the most vulnerable populations we have. True... some people who can afford to be throwing their money away also participate. But if they want to help the government or education that bad.... they can just give their money to the government. We should NOT be tempting poor people to throw their money away.

  • joe5 South Jordan, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 9:24 a.m.

    Close minded Mormon: Where in the article did the author tell other people what to do? Should be also suppose that you are telling people what to do when you make comments on here? In fact, why do you keep insisting on telling other people what to do?

    Airnaut: So you think you have better chances at winning the lottery instead of working hard and making it. By your own accounting, those who have made it constitute only 1% of the population. What do you calculate the odds are of winning the lottery? In order to make your math work, this most recent lottery of $600M+ must have had fewer than 200 entrants since only 2 people won and that would yield 1% winners. The other flaw is that making it is a lot different than being in the top 1% of the population. I feel like I made the climb from utter poverty to success and I'm well short of the top 1%. Great rhetoric, bad math.

    Marxist: What regressive sales tax and property tax are you talking about? Those are flat rate taxes which are neither regressive nor progressive by definition.

  • airnaut Everett, 00
    Dec. 19, 2013 9:59 a.m.

    @joe5
    South Jordan, UT

    Airnaut: So you think you have better chances at winning the lottery instead of working hard and making it.

    ===========

    You are so myopic.

    If you bought 1 ticket for the powerball, your chances were 1 in 175,000,000
    but,
    If I had taken the $50,000 I spent on college,
    and the $350,000 I just lost in Real Estate,
    and bought 400,000 tickets, the chances were 1 in 437.

    If I just played a simple weekly drawing in Idaho for - say $1 million,
    my changes would be better than 50/50.

    But the sad fact of life because GW Bush was the President of the United States,
    My odds of working hard for 30 years and being able to retire turned out to be ZERO.

  • joe5 South Jordan, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 10:30 a.m.

    airnaut: Amazing! Simply because I personally know scores of people (including my children) who flourished between 1981-2007. I know people who suffered through the late 80s (Democratic white house and democratic congress) and many who have suffered layoffs and financial struggles since then (Democratic congress in 2006 followed by Democratic congress and white house in 2008).

    You can try to make this your personal political platform to vent your angst against Republicans in general and Bush specifically but history does not support your arguments. What it really sounds like is that the problem may have been you instead of the system since millions of others have been successful through hard work and education.

    So have fun blaming others for your problems. If it makes you feel better and adds to your happiness, it's no skin off my nose. That seems to be a pattern with certain types of people. I like to call them Democrats.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 10:44 a.m.

    @Mountanman
    "Lotteries create no new wealth, no new jobs and only exacerbates poverty and increases food stamp and other welfare recipients at tax payer expense"

    Pretty sure a few Idaho gas station jobs are due solely to ticket purchases from Utahns...

    Anyway, welfare and food stamps are based on a person's lack of income. What they spend money on doesn't affect eligibility for that.

  • airnaut Everett, 00
    Dec. 19, 2013 10:57 a.m.

    To get "rich" it takes both skill AND luck,
    make that - a lot of skill AND a lot of luck.

    1 in 3 businesses fail in the 1st year.
    So, the chances of "winning" are still stacked against us.

    I stand by what I said earlier.

  • Pete1215 Lafayette, IN
    Dec. 19, 2013 11:03 a.m.

    When the mafia had a lottery it was called "the Numbers Racket". People were sent to prison for this. Now we rely on people's ignorance of mathematics and an inability to control themselves. It seems wrong for a government to engage in predation.

  • Fred44 Salt Lake City, Utah
    Dec. 19, 2013 11:06 a.m.

    The same people opposed to lottery because it targets the most vulnerable the poor, by allowing them to choose to pay a tax, are the same ones who complain that those on the lower end don't currently pay enough in taxes. I guess it is ok for the government impose a direct tax on the lower class, but not an indirect tax.

    Interesting how compassionate and caring these people are about the lower class when they may "sin".

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 11:25 a.m.

    airnaut,
    Let me get this straight... it's BUSH'S fault you wasted your education money. And it's BUSHES fault you made a bad investment in real estate... Oh... I get it. George Bush really had it out for you!

    I'm wondering... why did Bush not destroy me?

    When are you going to take responsibility for any of your own decisions? It was YOU who spent the money on college. It was YOU who invested in real estate and lost. George Bush didn't make ANY of these decisions for you.

    I suspect that you have it out for George Bush more than he actually was out to make you fail.

    George Bush being President for 8 years ruined the possibility for you to retire... REALLY?? Do you think he's the one who setup Social Security? The banking system? Controlled your ability to get and keep a job? He alone ruined your retirement plan? REALLY? You had NOTHING to do with it?

    I've always bet my money in myself and my job... and it's payed off 100% of the time so far. You're never going to get those odds in ANY lottery.

  • Shaun Sandy, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 12:42 p.m.

    This is a free society. There are plenty of businesses that take advantage of the poor like payday lenders, car dealers, rent to own and so on. Where is the outrage from people like mountainman and mike richards about those type of businesses that take advantage of the poor.

    Why is not ok to buy a lotto ticket but to buy a coke at gas station?

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 1:10 p.m.

    I have no problem with voluntary taxes. But people can voluntarily send their money to the government already. Just write them a check... I guarantee they will cash it.

    But I don't think the Government should be in the business of tempting and encouraging the poor to throw what little money they have away, and dangling that false promise of becoming rich to encourage them to do so.

    OTHER states can do whatever they want... I'm just talking about what I think we should/shouldn't do here in Utah.

  • Shaun Sandy, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 1:47 p.m.

    @joe5. So you criticized airnaut for blaming others but you did the same thing by blaming democrats. Can you only put blame on someone else as long as they are a democrat?

  • Kalindra Salt Lake City, Utah
    Dec. 19, 2013 2:03 p.m.

    While I firmly believe all lotteries are a bad idea all around, many who live in poverty and buy lottery tickets are actually buying hope and dreams for less than $2 a day. Yeah, they have a better chance of being struck by lightening, but a worse chance of actually getting out of poverty any other way.

    And honestly, the rich are just as likely to gamble as the poor - they just use more money and have slightly better odds and call it the stock market.

  • Momjeanz Columbus, OH
    Dec. 19, 2013 2:36 p.m.

    I don't understand this not even a little. At what point in our society did it become kosher to blame ALL of our bad decisions on someone else? I wasn't aware that purchasing lottery tickets was mandatory? I am not a million miles north of the poverty line. But I have bills, and I have a family, and I constantly worry about not having enough. Sure, the idea of winning the lottery and having our troubles be over sounds appealing. But do you know why I don't buy lottery tickets? Because I can look past the nose on my poor face and realize that A) chances are, I won't win. EVER. and B) Buying tickets a buck at a time doesn't seem like much, but it DOES add up, and that is money that my family needs. The odds are printed on the tickets. At what point is it okay to blame the person with limited funds for wasting his family's money on a one in however many hundreds of millions odds? Good lord, sir, YOU are the problem pushin that kind of nonsense.

  • Momjeanz Columbus, OH
    Dec. 19, 2013 3:02 p.m.

    Mountanman... I don't understand how you can agree with this. Youre saying too many lottery tickets are being purchased with money that should have been spent on groceries, rent, clothes etc. I dont purchase lottery tickets because all of the money I have is needed for those things. Sure, big payday sounds good, but not at my family's expense. How is this a government problem? Booze is out there; not everyone is an alcoholic. Not everyone that eats food is obese. Our government blows at a number of things, but I hardly think it's their fault that some people cant think for themselves and make the best decisions for their families and live within their means. If I'm middle class, I am just barely, so I'm not just sitting on my high horse comfy and carefree. I worry about money every minute of every day and a lottery win would be great. But it's not free to play, and the odds are astronomical, so I don't. It's called logic and living within my means, and doing what i KNOW is the right thing. It's not rocket science.

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    Dec. 19, 2013 3:54 p.m.

    "Anyone who wants something for nothing (or for the price of a lottery ticket) is a blight on society.". Are you kidding? Someone on their way to work stops in for a cup of coffee at their local 7/11 and buys a lottery ticket for one dollar (by the way the coffee cost $1.50) and they are a "blight on society"

    I rarely agree with your opinions but sometimes you are outright hilarious. Where does all your judgmental wrath come from?

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    Dec. 19, 2013 5:05 p.m.

    " lottery tickets are actually buying hope and dreams for less than $2 a day". Actually Kalindra is right. The real research into this phenomena suggests that one of the primary reasons the poor buy lottery tickets is because it's a level playing field. It's the one place in our economy where the chance of winning is as good as a billionaire with a ticket.

    BTW the research also says that the poor spend less than 1% of the gross income on tickets not the 5% the DN is saying. In fact no one spends 5% of their gross income on lottery tickets. Hey but they're just facts.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 5:29 p.m.

    I have no problem with lotteries. I wish they were more like the slots in wendover; nobody gives you free beer when you buy a lottery ticket.

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 5:30 p.m.

    It's amazing to read the posts on here from people who complain left to right about the government "forcing" people to do this or do that who are against lotteries. If people choose to buy tickets let them. It is their free agency.

  • Semi-Strong Louisville, KY
    Dec. 19, 2013 6:36 p.m.

    My son worked at a local gas station. He said few if any who bought lottery tickets drove nicer cars or had nicer clothes (not a sure sign of wealth but certainly partial indicators). Further, that those who appeared the most economically distressed often purchased large quantities of lottery tickets ($20 to $50 and sometimes more) each week. Obviously some of these purchases may have been for others. But the point remains that these folks were putting a lot of their scarce resources into something pretty much guaranteed to pay less than 50 cents on the dollar.

    I have sympathy with those that say govt. should not be the nanny state. But there is also the point of protection of citizens or at least not preying upon them ourselves (and when lotteries are state sponsored, it is the citizens doing the preying as the state represents the citizens).

    I will leave for another time whether there should be legalized gambling at all, but it seems clear to me that the state should not be promoting something that amounts to economic predation. And also comes with a host of social costs.

  • FreedomFighter41 Provo, UT
    Dec. 19, 2013 11:24 p.m.

    What's the difference between the lottery and investing in the stock market?

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 8:09 a.m.

    Remember, if you win the lotter you are now one of the "rich". And as a result you will have conficatory taxes levied (unless you take the lump sum).

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 9:29 a.m.

    Oh by the way, I agree that the Lottery is a tax. A tax on being stupid.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 10:20 a.m.

    Why is the lottery taxed at 50%,
    and the Uber-wealthy 1% like Mitt Romney only being taxed at less than 11%

  • a_voice_of_reason Woods Cross, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 11:19 a.m.

    @ Marxist

    You seem barely willing to admit that lotteries are a regressive tax, yet you want to know where to outrage is over the "regressive" FICA and sales taxes? First, the sales tax is in no way regressive. It's flat - which to liberals seems regressive only because it's not progressive. It takes equally from each individual based on their spending. I will concede that the FICA tax is somewhat regressive, but only to a segment of the population. Medicare is a flat 1.45% on all earnings for everyone. Social Security is a flat 6.2% until about $115,000 of income. On this point I do agree with you. It is ridiculous to me that we have a bankrupt program, but we stop taxing for the program for those most able to pay for it. It's almost as ridiculous as liberals being willing to make adjustments to the program so it can survive. Otherwise, however, I think your argument is incorrect. The lottery is regressive - it taxes the poor more than the rich. The other taxes (Social Security cap aside) are flat (might I say fair?), not regressive.

  • joe5 South Jordan, UT
    Dec. 20, 2013 2:02 p.m.

    Freedom Fighter: I'm sorry you don't understand the difference between the stock market and the lottery. People who lack that understanding are the ones who "invest" in the lottery. That is why at least on poster referred to it as a tax on being stupid.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Dec. 22, 2013 6:50 p.m.

    Perhaps if this newspaper would support efforts to provide economic opportunity to the least affluent, then perhaps fewer would play the lottery. How about a huge push from the DesNews to support programs to narrow the ever-widening income disparity we are experiencing. How about pushing hard on education and other programs to assist people to escape poverty? Instead, you will preach and moralize while at the same time support the GOP, the party which has shown itself to be hostile to the poor and downtrodden. They feel it is better to give more government benefits to the rich than to engage in progressive efforts which benefit the greatest number of our people. So, I really don't want to hear your preaching. I want you to use your inherent platform to advocate policies other than those of the GOP. This paper has a greater voice than its readers, and it pushes a right wing agenda. Christ said the poor would always be with us, but that doesn't mean we stop trying to lift them up. The nature of your ownership should lead you to take a different direction. Why hasn't it?

  • 1covey Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 2, 2014 8:52 p.m.

    If one invests in the stock market, it provides capital for those businesses to operate. History shows that if one invests wisely, and is prepared to be patient, they will do better than savings. It would be better if the government provided impartial and correct information to help potential investors find honest,reliable, and competent brokers. Unfortunately, those on government assistance cannot do this. Provision for these people should be made. Sometimes, some dreams should only done during dreamtime and not be confused with reality.