Friday, March 7, 2014

"Thanks for Gambling"

There is a particularly annoying series of radio and TV commercials in which a group of school children sing "Thanks for being a friend" to people who are buying New York State Lottery and Scratch-Off Game tickets. The idea behind them is that "a portion of the revenue" from these sales goes towards the state education budget, so every time you buy a lottery ticket, you're helping school children.

I have to admit I was skeptical about just how much of the money actually went towards education. A little research revealed that it is, in fact, about 30%, which is far more than I expected. (Sixty percent is paid out in prizes and the remainder goes for administrative fees, etc.)  On the other side of the ledger, the money received from these gambling ventures represents about 5% of the state's education budget, where the bulk of the funds comes from taxes.

So, if I buy a lottery ticket for a dollar and 30c of it goes towards education, isn't that really a tax I'm paying? After all, if I (and everyone else) did not buy lottery tickets, we'd be making up that 5% by paying higher taxes. So shouldn't I be able to claim it as a deduction?

Or, better yet, why doesn't the state tie the lottery directly to paying your school taxes. For every dollar you pay, you get another lottery ticket. Pay your taxes and get a chance to win a million bucks!In fact, since people buy more and more tickets as the size of the prize increases, imagine them volunteering to pay extra taxes just to get more shots at a multi-million dollar payday!

That would make those singing kids really happy!

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