Acton Institute Powerblog

Why Everybody Loses With the Powerball

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

When it comes to government programs for redistributing income, nothing is quite as malevolently effective as state lotteries. Every year state lotteries redistribute the income of mostly poor Americans (who spend between 4-9 percent of their income on lottery tickets) to a handful of other citizens—and to the state’s coffers.

A prime example is the Powerball jackpot. The largest jackpot in U.S. history—now an estimated $700 million—will be available this Saturday. But even if someone wins this time around, millions of Americans will have lost.

The odds of winning were 1 in 175 million, which means that if every person in America had bought a ticket, only two would won. The chances of a single ticket holder winning the Powerball were only slightly higher than meeting a random stranger on the street who hands you a million dollars.

Yet despite the harm it does to our financially vulnerable neighbors, Christians—who are called to seek justice for the poor—often participate and encourage this activity. Even more disconcerting is that the state not only allows, but participates, in this exploitation.

In an article for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Jordan Ballor explains how lotteries allow the state to prey on the poor:

Public polling has confirmed the fears of many who oppose such government-promoted gambling: the poorest among us are contributing much more to lottery revenues than those with higher incomes. One poll found that people who played the lottery with an income of less than $20,000 annually spent an average of $46 per month on lottery tickets. That comes out to more than $550 per year and it is nearly double the amount spent in any other income bracket.

The significance of this is magnified when we look deeper into the figures. Those with annual incomes ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 had the second-highest average — $24 per month, or $288 per year. A person making $20,000 spends three times as much on lottery tickets on average than does someone making $30,000. And keep in mind that these numbers represent average spending. For every one or two people who spend just a few bucks a year on lotteries, others spend thousands.

Read more . . .

Christian’s Library Press Flash Drive Bundle

Christian’s Library Press Flash Drive Bundle

Own 26 eBooks published by Christian’s Library Press on a single flash drive.  eBooks are included in Kindle format (.mobi), ePub, and PDF.  The total value of this eBooks bundle is $254.46 if each item was purchased individually.

Included eBooks:

A Treatise on the Alteration of Money by Juan de Mariana ($6.95)
Common Grace, Volume 1 | Part 1: Noah-Adam by Abraham Kuyper ($24.95)
Common Grace, Volume 2 | Part 1: Temptation–Babel by Abraham Kuyper ($24.95)
Common Grace, Volume 3 | Part 1: Abraham-Parousia by Abraham Kuyper ($24.95)
Economic Shalom: A Reformed Primer on Faith, Work, and Human Flourishing by John Bolt ($7.99)
Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness by Jordan Ballor ($2.99)
Faithful in All God's House: Stewardship and the Christian Life by Lester DeKoster ($5.99)
Flourishing Churches and Communities: A Pentecostal Primer on Faith, Work, and Economics for Spirit-Empowered Discipleship by Charlie Self ($7.99)
Flourishing Faith: A Baptist Primer on Work, Economics, and Civic Stewardshipby Chad Brand ($7.99)
Guidance For Christian Engagement In Government by Abraham Kuyper ($9.99)
How God Makes the World A Better Place: A Wesleyan Primer on Faith, Work, and Economic Transformation by David Wright ($7.99)
Kingdom Stewardship: Occasional Papers Prepared by the Lausanne Resource Mobilization Working Group for Cape Town 2010 by Arif Mohamed, Brett Elder, and Stephen Grabill ($2.99)
Living and Dying in Joy by Cornelis Vonk ($9.99)
On Law and Power by Johannes Althusius ($6.95)
On the Law in General by Girolamo Zanchi ($6.95)
Opening the Scriptures: Exodus by Cornelis Vonk ($9.99)
Opening the Scriptures: Genesis by Cornelis Vonk ($9.99)
Opening the Scriptures: Matthew by Cornelis Vonk ($9.99)
Rooted & Grounded: The Church as Organism and Institution by Abraham Kuyper ($1.99)
The Christian Family by Herman Bavinck ($7.99)
The Deacons Handbook: A Manual of Stewardship by Lester DeKoster ($9.99)
The Elders Handbook: A Practical Guide for Church Leaders by Lester DeKoster ($9.99)
The System Has a Soul by Hunter Baker ($14.95)
The Unity Factor: One Lord, One Church, One Mission by John Armstrong ($1.99)
Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science & Art by Abraham Kuyper ($14.99)
Work: The Meaning of Your Life - A Christian Perspective by Lester DeKoster ($2.99)

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Steve Vinzinski

    Joe you have answered your question.If i comprehend you correctly the poorer spend more.To be honest with you I did buy ten tickets for Wednesday’s drawing and tonight’s drawing.If there is no winner tonight the drawing could go to $1.3 billion next week.The only time I bother is when the amount is substantial.In reality I do not think I have bought tickets twenty times in my lifetime.We go down to the casinos in Atlantic City two or three times a year to see Frankie Valli,Paul Anka five or six times.Likewise we visit to to Frankie Avalon,Bobbie Rydell and Fabian.Also Gary Puckett,Bobbie Vinton and similar performers including the late Lesley Gore.I do gamble pennies and never lost of course my best evening was a profit of $84.00.I would think some of the power ball funds go to the Prescription fund for the senior citizens.Good luck have a nice week.