The following article was published at Fox&Hounds on Thursday, August 13.
Californians can now “Play at the Pump.”
Under a new California Lottery initiative being rolled out across the state, we can purchase lottery tickets while buying gas, without even going inside. Presented with the options of “Play Lotto” or “Gas Only,” we’ll actually have to decline the opportunity to play before fueling our vehicles.
As a matter of principle, this intrusion of the lottery into our most routine of daily activities is hard to justify. Conservatives should balk at a state-run monopoly. Liberals should recoil at a regressive source of revenue. Californians of all political stripes should wonder why exactly our government is encouraging us to gamble.<span id="more-20285">
Morally dubious as it is, there is one argument for expanding the lottery: it generated $5.5 billion last year, $1.3 billion of which went to education. But a well-governed state should not have to fund its schools by enticing citizens – usually the poorest of citizens – into irrational economic decisions. That 10 percent of players accounts for 80 percent of sales lays bare the hidden social cost of the lottery.