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.