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Lottery Nuttery

The idea of establishing a state lottery in Nevada is about as hard to kill as Jason Voorhees in those “Friday the 13th” movies.

And as CityLife editor Steve Sebelius notes in his blog today, no discussion of a Nevada lottery is complete without someone making the asinine argument that it’s a “regressive tax on the poor.” The purveyor of this crud this week is state Sen. John Lee (D-North Las Vegas) who had this to say about a proposed lottery…

“I think it is a tax on the poor. When somebody goes to store to buy two gallons of milk, they end up buying one and spending the rest on lottery tickets. The kids go to school hungry. Wealthy people aren’t going to use a lottery to get ahead. The people who have nothing else to grasp for are going to be attracted to it.”

Oh, puh-lease. Exactly who is putting guns to the collective heads of poor people and forcing them to buy lottery tickets?

In any event, Sebelius does a much better job of ripping apart the stupidity of this “regressive tax on the poor” argument than I…

“Sorry, senator, but that’s just not the case. Let’s define our terms: A tax is a levy imposed by government to fund state-sanctioned services, which you have no choice but to pay. If you don’t pay, revenue agents can arrest you, haul you into court, fine you and even put you in jail.

“A lottery, by contrast, is a voluntary spending of disposable income, very much like playing slots, blackjack or poker. If you don’t play the lottery, armed men don’t come to your house and arrest you, just as they won’t if you choose to bypass the slot machines in favor of going to the movies at your local Station casino.

“Let’s review: Income tax? Involuntary. Sales tax? Involuntary. Motor vehicle fuel tax? Gotta pay. Slots? Voluntary. Video poker? Up to you. Lottery? It’s your choice.”

So let’s put to rest once and for all this notion that a lottery is a “regressive tax on the poor.” If Steve Sebelius and I agree that it’s no such thing, it’s no such thing.


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