Monday of Holy WeekJackpot!
The New York Times is the latest media organ to get in on the continuing debate over Tennessee House Bill 818, legislation brought forward by Stacey Campfield that would cap the amount of lottery winnings that welfare recipients could receive to $600. The Times and others wonder if this limitation will impact Tennessee's lottery profits considering who statistics are telling us is playing the lottery the most:
Eight states are proposing that people get tested for drugs before receiving government assistance. Proponents say it’s a health issue but, as demand for these programs surges, it surely sends a different kind of message. Meanwhile, a bill in the Tennessee Legislature would cap lottery winnings at $600 for people on public assistance. Considering that poor people play lotteries way out of proportion to others and that lotteries are big moneymakers for states themselves (since they take such a huge rake), isn’t Tennessee risking a big loss?
The World doesn't have a problem with legalized gaming or gambling, but in Tennessee there is a State monopoly on gaming, and that literally means that the State is at least somewhat dependent on its own public assistance recipients to fund its "education" lottery. The money these recipients are getting is intended to feed, clothe, and sustain them by providing basic needs because the State presumes that if you are on public assistance that you have some good reason why you cannot provide for those needs yourself. It can be safely presumed that the purchase of lottery tickets was not intended by the authors of public assistance legislation to be considered a "basic need" for which a person must be provided.
One commenter rightly pointed out that those who are complaining that this bill would reduce lottery revenue have obviously never played the lottery themselves:
Capped at $600 or not, people who want to play the lottery will. Most scratch tickets are for prizes less than $1000 and I’ve seen all kinds of people buy them, poor or rich. $600 is more than a poor person had yesterday and doesn’t really reduce their incentive to play if they have a gambling mentality.
This legislation is fiscally responsible because it is not likely that lottery revenues will significantly decrease, since the State makes so much money from scratch-off ticket sales, but it saves the State from having to give a huge payoff to someone who is already receiving State money.
(Hat Tip: In Session)