[Florida state government] pays millions to probe the thoughts and habits of potential lottery players. Consultants ask what they buy at convenience stores, whether they rent videos, go to theme parks, even how they feel about owning things and belonging to a group.
The results show the lottery relies on the poorest and least educated — "Thrill Seeking Dreamers," it calls them — to spend more than everyone else. Floridians shelled out nearly $4 billion on lottery tickets in 2008-09, with the Thrill Seekers accounting for half of those purchases.
...The Thrill Seekers are the lifeblood of the lottery. They make up 15 percent of the adult population, but they account for 50 percent of the lottery's revenue.
Most of them are women. Their income and education tend to be low or moderately low, though most have full-time jobs, and they "live for the moment," said a 2006 Ipsos Reid marketing study. Last year, about 20 percent of the Thrill Seekers surveyed said they spent more than $100 on the lottery in the most recent month. Four percent spent more than $500 in that month [Lindsay Peterson, "Lottery Pushes Floridians to Spend More Amid Recession," Tampa Tribune, 2010.03.05].
Florida gets 30 cents out of every lottery dollar. So they aren't just shifting tax burden; they're also shifting income straight from the poor to the not-so-poor. How's that for regressive?
State lotteries are essentially a tax on the poor and uneducated. Instead of making the hard political case that we should all pay our fair share for roads, schools, police, and fire departments through taxes, politicians turn to lotteries to get money through marketing and manipulation.
In South Dakota, three quarters of our lottery revenues have gone to lower property taxes. So three out of four of your lottery dollars don't even go to improve South Dakota's infrastructure or services; they just go to keep someone else from paying taxes. So really, if you own property, the best way to win at the lottery is not to play. You're guranteed a payoff at tax time.