Lotteries are a government’s way of taxing its poorest citizens

Luck ran out for hundreds of employees of B.C. Lottery Corporation.  They were part of government cuts.  Little did they know when they voted for the B.C. Liberals that they were rolling the dice on their jobs.


The Liberals are proving to be more capricious than Lady Luck.  The government’s illogical plan is to increase employment by laying people off.   It’s not like laid-off employees have any jobs to go to.  Since the Liberals have taken office, unemployment has increased from a twenty year low of 6.9 per cent to over 10.

The Liberals should have left B.C. Lottery Corporation alone.  After all, it’s one of the few revenue-generating corporations that the government has.

BCLC is already a lean operation.  Staffed with many graduates of The University College of the Cariboo, they run the government crown corporation in a smooth, efficient way.

Because BCLC was kept headquartered in Kamloops, we are supposed to feel grateful.  The number laid off in Kamloops was relatively small compared to the thousands of jobless created by the Liberals.

In Kamloops, a few dozen full and part-time jobs were lost.  Councillor Pat Wallace said it could have been worse here, “it could have been 100.”  I don’t think so.  The Liberals need BCLC.

Unlike services to the unemployed and poor, who are expendable, the government needs the revenue that lotteries collect.   If the Liberals wants to keep the cash flowing, they should make sure that BCLC is well staffed.  It’s the workers who keep the high tech machinery greased.

Lottery revenues are expected to increase from $600 million a year to $765 million by 2005.  In part, the increase in lottery participation will come from recently unemployed.

The unemployed are prime candidates for buying lottery tickets.  “People of all classes who have not previously gambled may decide to do so when they lose their wealth, for example, when they are fired,…and so on,” writes David Nilbert, professor of sociology, in his book Hitting the Lottery Jackpot.

Lotteries hold out hope to the poor that they will strike it lucky and get out of poverty.  Yet the odds of being struck by lightning are greater.  The poor can’t afford to buy lottery tickets.  The poorist 20 per cent B.C. families have negative assets — they owe more than they possess.  Lotteries also remain popular because “they provide an outlet for the frustration of those who believe that skill and hard work have no power to aid in their chances of achieving success,” continues Nilbert.

Desperate, unemployed people with negative savings often take their own lives in the face of hopelessness.   In Montreal, the city coroner has identified 100 of gambling related suicides since 1993, when the province started casinos.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg says Sol Boxenbaum, head of a counselling firm for Montreal gamblers.   For every death confirmed by a suicide note, there are an estimated to 4 to 5 more gambling-related suicides.

Governments of all colours support Lotteries, some with regrets.  David Barrett, NDP premier from 1972 to 1976, originally supported lotteries but later regretted it.  “It’s simply a regressive and unfair form of taxation that lower income people pay.  We hadn’t intended it that way, but that is the way that it has worked out.”

Lotteries are a convenient method of social control.   Desperate citizens are seduced into thinking that there is way out of poverty other than civil disobedience and revolt.  Lotteries help to divert people’s attention from their troubles and misgivings, serving as a safety valve.  They distract people from asking why their quality of life is slipping and why their jobs, if they are fortunate enough to have one, are unrewarding and tedious.

Lotteries shift the blame of misfortune to the player.  If unemployed British Columbians don’t win the lottery, then it’s just their bad luck and not the fault of the government.  For example, if the numbers generated by the gambler’s birthday fail to win, then it is the gambler’s fault that they weren’t born on a lucky day.

In a perverse way, the unemployed will not escape paying into the provincial treasury.  They might not pay income taxes but they might buy a lottery ticket.  With their dwindling resources, the unemployed will try to buy a dream.



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