​Welfare Lottery Ban System Targets The Poor

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January 27, 2013
Also: Ban, Lottery, North Carolina, Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, Users, Welfare, Welfare Users Lottery Ban

Welfare users in North Carolina might face a lottery ban if a state lawmaker gets his way because he says the system targets the poor who don’t understand the odds of winning a jackpot.

Welfare participants are part of a new proposal by state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, a Republican from Wake, during the upcoming legislation session.

Stam is pushing to ban lottery ticket sales for those on welfare or in bankruptcy, a proposal that would affect more than 1.7 million people in the Tar Heel State.

“We’re giving them welfare to help them live, and yet by selling them a ticket, we’re taking away their money that is there to provide them the barest of necessities,” Stam said.

Stam acknowledged that there were concerns over how the ban might be enforced, especially because lottery clerks may not always be able to tell if lottery players on government assistance. But in obviously cases, such as when customers use food stamps to buy groceries, they should not be permitted.

Stam said the purpose of the ban was for the protection of consumers, whom he says are deceived by the lottery, which tends to attract lower-income people who don’t understand that their chances of winning are slim.

“What they are talking about is making it a more honest lottery,” Stam said. He argued that the lottery advertises large cash payouts, but fails to explain the odds of winning big prizes and that even big wins are ultimately slashed by taxes and deductions.

According to North Carolina Policy watch, sales of lottery tickets are concentrated in impoverished counties, and that all but two of the 20 poorest counties have above-average ticket sales per capita.

Census data from the most recent American Community survey (2011) shows 28 percent of African American North residents fall below the poverty level (compared to 18 percent statewide).

Nearly half of the families on food stamps in the state are African American, even though they make up less than 12 percent of the state’s population.