In Parts 1 and 2 of our series on abolishing the Arkansas Lottery, we discussed how the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery is not really for scholarships and how economically destructive this state-run lottery really is. Today I want to look at another way the lottery is hurting Arkansas: Social destruction.
It’s not a stretch to say that the lottery is contributing to divorce in Arkansas. Financial problems are often cited as the number-one reason for divorce in America. If the Arkansas Lottery is doing financial harm to any of its players—and evidence suggests it is—then we can safely conclude that the money problems are likely hurting marriages.
The social damage goes beyond the divorce rate, though. Problem gambling and gambling addiction are major consequences of having a lottery. When people play the lottery out of desperation, keep gambling in order to win back their losses, or routinely gamble and lose more than they intended to, that’s “problem gambling” in action. When they can’t stop gambling—or when they begin seriously neglecting necessities in order to afford lottery tickets—that’s a sign of gambling addiction.
This sort of behavior affects more than just the individual buying the lottery tickets. It affects children who go hungry because their parents spent the grocery money on scratch-off tickets. It affects families when their car gets repossessed or their home goes into foreclosure because of out of control gambling addiction.
I’ve heard stories from people who have seen parents buy as much as $50 worth of scratch-off tickets while simultaneously telling their children there’s not enough money to buy bread or milk. In the last year, all of us have seen or talked to someone who has seen similar situations in gas stations and grocery stores across the state.
The Arkansas Lottery Commission knows this sort of thing happens. Otherwise, they wouldn’t at least make the token effort to encourage people to “play responsibly,” and they wouldn’t allocate money to treat gambling addiction—although I’m told the amount they’ve allocated would treat very few cases, in reality. They openly admit that their “product” is destructive.
All of this bears the question: If we know gambling causes harm, why is the State of Arkansas in the gambling business? The State has an obligation not to do anything that directly harms its citizens.
This is just another reason why Arkansas has no business in the gambling business. We need to abolish the lottery right away.
Jerry is the founder and president of Family Council. He began Family Council in 1989 after a successful effort to amend the Arkansas Constitution to prevent the use of public funds for abortions. He and his wife reside in Little Rock. They have four sons.