The Oregon Lottery: It Does Bad Things

This is Dan. We were discussing the Oregon lottery at my parent's house tonight, so I decided to do a little research project.

Some fun facts about the Oregon Lottery:

  • 2,949,581 adults live in Oregon
According to the Oregon Lottery website (http://www.oregonlottery.org/About/FAQ/Default.aspx):
  • 61% (or 1,799,245) of Oregon adults are lottery players
  • about 3% (or 88,487) of Oregon adults or 5% of players are "problem gamblers"
According to the Oregonian (http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/03/with_lottery_profits_down_oreg.html):
  • about 10% of players are responsible for about 50% of the money the lottery takes in, who lose $500 or more each month
  • More than one-third of problem gamblers say they've committed illegal acts to get gambling money.
  • Nearly half of problem gamblers have considered killing themselves and 7 percent have attempted suicide.
Combining some of these facts gives us some more facts:
  • If 61% of adults are lottery players, and 10% of them lose more than $500 each month, that means that 6.1% of Oregon adults lose AT LEAST $500 each month on the lottery.
  • If over one-third of the 3% of Oregon adults who are "problem gamblers" have committed illegal acts to get gambling money, that's over 29,200 Oregon adults who have committed illegal acts to get gambling money.
Compare this to smoking. According to Oregon DHS (http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/addiction/publications/seow/tobacco-profile.pdf), about 13.4% of Oregon adults smoke cigarettes every day, but this number is declining, cigarettes are easier to access and many smokers start before they are adults. A pack of cigarettes costs $3-$5. If someone smokes a pack per day, they would spend a little over $100-$150 each month on cigarettes. They'd have to smoke 4-5 packs a day to match the kind of spending we're talking about with 6.1% of Oregon adults playing the lottery, and at least the smokers get a buzz and keep the pounds off.

The state does offer treatment programs, but only about 1,800 (about 2%) of the problem gamblers got any help through the state last year. Because lottery profits are down, the state is cutting the funds that help with gambling addiction. Hundreds of the small fraction of addicts who actually seek help will be turned away.

The behavior of tobacco companies and other businesses is questionable but makes sense: they make money by giving people what they want. It's very difficult to ask or force a business to stop doing that. However I think it's absolutely wrong for our state government to be the one creating and relying on addiction to fund it's programs. There are a lot of more ethical ways to raise money. The Oregon Lottery doesn't do good things. Regardless of what the commercials say, our state is not interested in making sure people are playing "for entertainment only". Just like the tobacco companies, we're spending relatively small amounts of money on PR campaigns to look like we care when in the end we thrive on addicts.


PS. Is that Sonya in the video on the right?


Rachel said...

My family knows someone who called one day asking for money. They said it was for something important. We told them no. We found out later that this person stole money from a business they worked at and used it for gambling reasons and needed to replace it before anyone found out, which is why they called us. So sad. Interesting facts.

Ashleigh said...

Yeah, this is sick! I get so frustrated at what's going on in the world today and feel so helpless as to what I can do about it. I'm just grateful I don't fall into that pit of gambling problems and that I'm relatively addiction free (I DO love my chocolate...). Also, yes, that's totally Sonya. I saw that commercial and started jumping up and down telling Chad that I knew that girl. Yes, I am a dork.

Rachel H said...

I saw a billboard in Portland the other day that said "Oregon Lottery: It Does Good Things" and it made me want to throw up.