Is the Lottery Racist? 

The largest jackpot for the Powerball lottery ticket went to a California resident this week. The odds were 1 in 292.2 million for the whopping $2.04 billion. 

Some experts have highlighted the flaws of a lottery system they say unfairly targets poor Black and brown communities. 

Lottery officials say the lone winning ticket holder of the largest lottery prize ever was sold in Altadena, California. The winner matched all six numbers. 

But despite the extremely low chances of anyone winning, state lotteries continue to market and sell tickets to low-income communities at higher rates. 

The targeted advertising campaign leads those Americans to believe it’s a quick way to build wealth, researchers say. Lottery ticket sales have jumped to $82 billion from $47 billion since 2005.

These communities targeted in ads are disproportionately made up of Black and brown people. Critics say the consequence is that marginalized people will be driven into deeper debt by a system that is transferring wealth out of their communities.

Lotteries are regressive, meaning lower-income groups spend more of their budgets on lottery games than higher-income groups.

Research has shown that low-income gamblers tend to spend more money every year on instant scratch-off games rather than huge jackpot drawings such as Powerball. 

Experts say that the lottery preys on the poor. Les Bernal, national director for Stop Predatory Gambling, called it a form of “systemic racism” and “consumer financial fraud.” Bernal said poor people are being scammed into believing they will someday gain wealth from a winning lottery ticket.

Bernal said that lottery players are continuously paying into a lottery system that, in most cases, gives them nothing in return. A portion of lottery revenue goes to participating states that legislators can decide how to allocate.

A study by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism found that stores selling lottery tickets are disproportionately located in poor communities of every state. 

In most cases, the money these residents spend on lottery tickets does not come back to their communities but rather to colleges and wealthier school districts, the study found.

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